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o.a.iao 



\RVARD 
DLLEGE 
BRARY 



TOWARDS MORNING 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 

The 
Shining Heights 

"In Tbt Shining Heights' Miss 
Wylie has given her readera not 
merely the best novel she has 
ever written, but also a war novel 
of genuine distinction." 

Providence Journal. 

Goikf $1.50 net 



TOWARDS MORNING 



BY 

I. A. R. WYLIE 

AimOR 07 

"iBE SHININO HEIGHTS," 

"the daughter OV BRAHMA," 

ETC. 



NEW YORK 

JOHN LANE COMPANY 

MCMXVIII 



3.3^4C.a./^D 



4 




COPYSIGBT, igiS, 
By CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY 

COFYKIGHT, 1918, 
Bt JOHN LANE COMPANY 



J. J. littk ft Ivci Comptnj 
New Yofk. U. S. A. 



TOWARDS MORNING 



TOWARDS MORNING 



PART I 
CHAPTER I 



He awoke violently. In the very midst of his dream 
he had been shot out of a cannon's mouth straight into 
consciousness. Yet for a moment he could not re- 
member where he was. He seemed to be clinging to 
the outer edge of a monster wheel which whirled him 
through darkness till his brain went sick and giddy. 
Half-remembered landmarks flew past him. He 
clutched at them, trying to stay his mad flight. But 
they slipped through his fingers. The pace was at 
first too frightful — ^his clutch too feeble. But gradu- 
ally the wheel began to revolve more quietly. The 
landmarks settled in their accustomed places. He 
clung to one of them — it was the big majolica stove 
just opposite — and this time his grip held. The wheel 
jerked and came to a standstill and there was the 
Herr Amtschreiber Felde in his plush covered chair 
and the grey early morning light peering at him 
through the cracks in the closed shutters. 

He did not move at first His body ached all over, 
but he was glad to sit quiet Although it was still 

7 



V 



8 TOWARDS MORNING 

too dark to see anjrthing clearly, it made him feel more 
secure to recognise the dim outline of familiar ob- 
jects — ^the table in the middle of the room, the four 
chairs drawn up stiffly in place, the plush covered sofa 
with the carved wooden back, the Venetian mirror 
shining like a polished shield on the opposite wall, the 

big majolica stove 

It was the stove which held his attention longest 
It explained his dream and he always liked to have 
things explained. As soon as he had found a natural 
cause for it, the dream did not trouble him so much. 
Yet it had been rather terrible. Even now the memory 
of it held a queer, uncanny fascination. Without 
being terrified any more, he could still understand why 
he had been afraid. It had been an unusual dream 
in so far that nothing had really happened in it He 
had been sitting in his chair, close to the warmth, 
drowsy with fatigue and worry and excitement, and 
then suddenly he found himself in an empty plain. 
He was quite alone, but afar off against the horizon 
loomed a Shape so black and huge that it shut out 
the light of the sun. Its one red eye watched the 
Herr Amtschreiber. It brightened and grew dim and 
brightened again, but it never let go of him. And 
he sat there, pimy and cowering and stark naked and 
waited. He was not surprised that in spite of his 
puniness the eye should be so intent upon him. He 
had a dim but profound knowledge that they were vital 
to one another — ^that if the eye closed he himself 
would go out into nothingness and that if he could 
have turned away his gaze the eye would be extin- 
guished for ever. But he did not want to turn away. 
That was the odd part of it Though he knew quite 
well that the eye would kill him in the end, he was 



TOWARDS MORNING 9 

fascinated — intoxicated. He felt that in a minute 
he would jump up and dance and scream and yell 
unknown blasphemies till he dropped — dead. 

He, the respectable, respected Herr Amtschreiber 
felt that he was going to dance — ^stark naked — and 
scream and yell blasphemies. But then mercifully he 
had wakened just in time. And there he was, in 
his plush arm-chair, stiff and aching from the em- 
brace of the carved wooden arms, but fully clad, and 
not even knowing what the blasphemies would have 
been. 

It was nothing but the stove after all. He remem- 
bered now that he had gone to sleep staring at the 
fire glowing fiercely behind the glass covered door. 
He had sat too close — far too close — and the heat 
had given him nightmare. Now the fire was almost 
out It had a sullen, dying look and the atmosphere 
of the room was dank and stuffy. 

The door opened. A woman came shuffling softly 
over the parquet flooring and loomed up at the Herr 
Amtschreiber's side. She carried a fimnel-shaped coal 
scuttle and opening the slot of the stove jerked in 
the coal with an angry rattle. 

The Herr Amtschrieber stirred and stretched him- 
self. 

"Has the Herr slept well?" she asked with a sing- 
ing South German intonation. 

"Na — es geht" He got up and limped painfully 
about the room. He had a bad taste in his mouth 
and his eyes were heavy and sore with unrestf ul sleep. 
The woman came over to the window and threw open 
the shutters and the light snatched the misty grey 
covers from the furniture and left it stark and blealv 
in its ugliness. The Herr Amtschreiber stood before 



JO TOWARDS MORNING 

the Venetian glass and peered anxiously over his spec- 
tacles at the reflection of a little man with a small 
pale face and a fair straggling moustache and round 
blue eyts. The eyes were yoimg, but the face was 
middle-aged and faded. The Herr Amtschreiber 
sighed. He jacked the chocolate-coloured coat higher 
up on to the sloping shoulders and wriggled his legs 
in the baggy trousers. The shot-silk tie had worked 
up under one ear. He tied it carefully and fastened 
the low collar and smoothed his thin fair hair. 'Wa 
— es geht schon," he repeated sleepily. 

The servant came back carrying a round tray with 
a white china coffee pot and a plate of rusks which 
she set down at the head of the table. She was tall and 
broadly built. Her body showed soft rounded lines 
under the dark cotton dress, but her bare arms were 
strong and hard as a man's. Her eyes were deeply 
shadowed and sad and beautiful and stupid as the 
eyes of a patient, over-burdened animal. 

"The breakfast is there, Herr Felde." 

He grunted and came and sat down. He dipped 
a rusk into the coffee and began to eat nervously. 
Every now and then he stopped crunching to listen, 
his head a little on one side, his brows knitted. 

"Is — ^is it all right, Anna ?*' 

"Oh, yes, yes, Herr Felde. The Sister says she 
has been asleep. She is asleep now. It will all go 
splendidly " 

"Yes — of course. I mustn't disturb her. I have 
got to be at the Bureau early this morning. The 
Grand Duke is to open the new wing. I ought to 
be gone now. Bring me my hat and coat. Good God 
—what is it?" 

He had leapt to his feet as though the cry from 



TOWARDS MORNING ii 

behind the closed double doors had been the sting 
of a serpent. It was a terrible cry — ^not loud — ^but 
pressed down and running over with agony. It was 
the cry of some one unsuspecting who has opened 
a door and looked down suddenly into a pit of horror. 
The Herr Amtschreiber stood trembling with clasped 
hands, his mouth gaping. "What is it — ^what is it?" 
he repeated helplessly. 

The servant Anna looked at him. She too was pale, 
but also she was smiling. The smile had some strange 
kinship with the cry that came creeping up to them 
through the stillness in low, advancing waves. It 
was world old. It lit the patient, stupid face with an 
unfathomable wisdom. 

"The Herr Amtschreiber shouldn't worry. It is 
just beginning — that is all. It must be gone through. 
It is always so." 

"Always? It is impossible. Dear God in heaven, 
how do you know?" 

"It is always so," she repeated stolidly. "My 
mother had ten children. I was the fourth. Six times 
have I heard my mother cry like that" 

He was walking up and down the room — almost 
running — like some distraught hunted little animal — 
with the vibrating, deepening cry at his heels. 

"Ten times! Ten times! It's incredible. Intol- 
erable. Why isn't the doctor here? Has the man no 
conscience. Doesn't he think he'll get his fees ? Anna 
— how long — ^how long can that go on?" 

"It depends." She gathered the breakfast things 
together. "Some have it more easily than others. 
The Frau Amtschreiber is not so young." 

He stood still suddenly, close to the double door, his 
soft felt hat squeezed between his nervous bony hands. 



12 TOWARDS MORNING 

The round blue eyes peered blindly over the crooked 
spectacles. 

"No — ^no — ^we are not young, either of us. Is that 
our fault ? One can't be reckless. One must do things 
decently — in order — standes gemasz — ^a Grand Ducal 
Official can't marry anyhow — can he? One must 
wait. But I didn't know — I thought — ^nature oughtn't 
to punish people — for doing things decently — ^Anna — 
if I could see her for a minute " 

"The Herr Amtschreiber will be late " 

"Late? Yes — ^and — dear God in heaven — His 
Royal Highness is visiting the Rathaus himself. Some 
of us will get an Order. If only I But my Bu- 
reau-Chef doesn't like me. I don't know why. I have 
always done my best. One must be careful. It 
wouldn't do to be late. Anna — if anything — ^anything 
happened you must come at once." 

She helped him into his overcoat and brought him 
out into the dark stuffy passage. The cry had be- 
come a whimper. It had lost dignity. The revolt and 
passion had gone out of it. It was the pitiful, ex- 
hausted protest of a spirit already broken. 

The Herr Amtschreiber shook his head 

"It isn't right— it isn't right." 

"It will go well," Anna said soothingly. "The Herr 
Amtschreiber will see — it will go well." 

Though he was so late he lingered for a long min- 
ute outside the massive, grey-faced house. He felt 
dazed and battered and sore. It was as though he 
had run away out of a terrible battle. He was amazed 
that everything in the street was just as usual. He 
looked at a little boy in his blue overall, his satchel 
strapped to his shoulders like a knapsack — so grave 
and earnest and anxious. He looked at the big in- 



TOWARDS MORNING 13 

fantry soldier coming along with his clumsy and ef- 
fective swagger and he felt that he saw them for the 
first time. He was amazed that he had never realised 
them before. They were stages in one development — 
imd the first stage of all was the sound of a woman 
crying. They meant fear and remorse and pain. 

He saw how terrible they were. 

He looked up at the window in the top storey of 
the big house. 

"It wasn't like her to cry like that — she never cried 
like that before." 

Then he remembered how late he was. He walked 
fast but with dignity till he came to a side street and 
then he began to run. 



n 

He was not used to it His lungs ached and his 
knees shook under him. And he was ashamed. He 
felt red with shame right to his very soul. He knew 
that Gross-herzogliche Staatsbeamten never ran. Nor 
were they ever late. They were always at their post, 
weaving their little pattern into the vast national de- 
sign with absolute efficiency and dignity, without haste 
or disorder. Now he was late and running — ^and run- 
ning absurdly — a sort of shambling trot* his face very 
red, his glasses jogging on the bridge of his nose. 

A vague, unhappy anger ran through his shame. 
He did not know with whom or with what he was 
angry. It had something to do with Clafchen and that 
terrible crying. Either she shouldn't have had to cry 
like that or he shouldn't have had to run. There was 
something wrong about it alL It did not belong to 



14 TOWARDS MORNING 

the neat scheme of his life. It was as though a maniac 
had burst into his office at the Stadtamt and thrown 
all his papers out of the window. He wanted to cry, 
too. The tears made the rims of his eyes red — 
tears of pity and worry and sheer physical weariness. 

A man came out of a house at the corner of the 
street. He was tall and broad with consciously 
squared shoulders and a strong slow step. He seemed 
to be leading an invisible procession and to be gravely 
not unworthily aware of his responsibility. 

The Herr Amtschreiber stopped running. He 
choked back his gasping breath and set his glasses 
straight It was as if he had suddenly remembered 
his own little bit of a procession and was trying to 
call it to order. Three paces away he swept off his 
hat and carried it reverentially. 

The Geheimrat Kohler blinked at him, hesitated and 
finally stopped. Actually. Though he had married 
Clarchen's sister the Herr Amtschreiber had not ex- 
pected more than a nod — ^had perhaps hot wanted 
more. For he was dreadfully late. Yet he was glad, 
too. He wished some of his colleagues could see the 
Geheimrat patting him on the shoulder. 

*'Na, mem Lieber, how goes it? My wife asked 
me to enquire. She woulci have called herself, but 
you know how it is. She is to have audience with the 
Grand Duchess this afternoon. With regard to the 
Frauen Verein, you know. Still — she was very 
anxious. The Frau Gemahlin is doing well, eh ?" 

The Herr Amtschreiber made a little bow. 

"It's very kind of you — ^please thank the Frau 
Geheimratin. I don't know — I — I am rather worried 
— ^terribly worried." The rising tears in his heart 
almost welled over. *'When I left her she was cry- 



TOWARDS MORNING 15 

ing — not just crying — groaning. It was awful. I — 
I don't know what to do. It's intolerable that any 
one should have to suffer like that I can't believe that 
it's right. I can't believe that every one has to 
suffer." 

Herr Kohler burst out laughing. He had a hard, 
rasping voice which he retained from his Garde- 
Lieutenant days in Berlin. 

"My dear fellow — ^you're too newly married, that's 
what's the matter. Women have to go through with 
it It's their duty. They were made for it. Mustn't 
make a fuss. Mustn't encourage them to make a fuss. 
We can't do with parasites in this country. Every 
one to his duty. We fight — ^they bear children. 
There's too much of the old German Sentimentalitates 
Dusel left. Must be rooted out, eh, Felde ?" 

The Herr Amtschreiber nodded seriously. He felt 
suddenly stem and stiffened as though the Geheimrat 
had rammed a poker down the back of his coat 
'Yes, yes, of course." 

'Na, gut. It must be a boy, eh? You know the 
good old custom — the first diild to the Kaiser. A 
fine boy. See to it, my dear fellow." 

The Geheimrat laughed and the Herr Amtschreiber 
laughed too. He had not thought about the child 
at all. He had only thought about Clarchen. He be- 
gan to see things in their proper perspective. 
'We'll do our best," he said. 
'That's good. Look here — if it is a boy I will 
stand god-father — I'll — I'll do what I can. We must 
make something of him. Something first class. If 
we realised that every child is a cog in the national 
machine, there would be fewer failures. Young Felde 
mustn't be a failure, eh?" 









i6 TOWARDS MORNING 

"No— no. It's very good of you. Very good. I v.[ 



shall tell Clara. Thank you, Herr Geheimrat" 
Though they were brothers-in-law, he could never have 
said, "Thank you, my dear fellow," or patted the great 
man on the back. "It will comfort Clara," he added 
unsteadily. 

"Ach was! She shouldn't need comforting. She 
should be only too glad. But no doubt she is. A 
sister of Mathilde's is sure to know her duty. You're 
too soft, Felde — just a little too soft. It doesn't do. 
These are stem times. One must carry one's head 
high." 

The Herr Amtschreiber lifted his head involuntarily. 

"Assuredly, Herr Geheimrat." 

'Wo — also ! Good luck. And when the happy event 
takes place you must let us know." 

"Assuredly." 

The two men bowed and shook hands. Then the 
Geheimrat walked on at the head of his procession, 
and the Herr Amtschreiber turned out of the quiet 
street into the Ludwig's platz. 

He did not hurry any more. It was so late that 
a few minutes either way had ceased to matter. 



in 

The Rathaus looked out onto a wide, old-fashioned 
square. It was a grave building, but neither austere 
nor arrogant Its windows were full of flowers and 
two tall shrubs, like sentinels, kept guard over the stone 
steps. Across the way and on either hand its low- 
roofed neighbours bore it goodly company. They 



• •• 



TOWARDS MORNING 17 

were of the same generation. They had known the 
old Rathaus from their childhood and respected it, 
though without servility. They knew what was due 
to it and to themselves. 

In the midst of the square stood the tomb-stone of 
the Grand Duke who had gfiven his name to the town. 
He had loved the place and had wished to be buried 
in its heart. For that reason perhaps his tomb-stone 
had a quaint air of having grown up out of the cob- 
bles — to be a part of them. 

The townsfolk were rather ashamed of their Rathaus 
and of the square generally. They told strangers they 
were going to pull the whole place down and build 
up something that would be more in keeping with 
the massive, flamboyant modernity of the Kaiser- 
strasse. The square troubled them. It held aloof 
from their clanging trams and vociferous motor-cars, 
wrapping itself in grave civic dignity. 

The Herr Amtschreiber went in by a side entrance. 
He had seen the sober carriage and pair with the gold- 
braided footmen and the little knot of idlers and 
he knew just what had happened. He could not think 
of Clarchen any more. A cold fear had laid hold of 
him. But he could not hurry. He was like a truant 
school-boy, dragging leaden feet 

The Staatszimmer was full of his colleagues. They 
stood in a long row, very stiff and upright, giving their 
elderly figures a martial bearing. In front of them the 
Grand Duke paced up and down with the chief offi- 
cials, like a general on parade. He was tall and grey- 
haired, with the remote and melancholy expression 
of a man forever playing a part which wearies and 
disgusts him. The grey military coat and spurred 
heels did not make him a soldier. 



i8 TOWARDS MORNING 

"I thank you, gentlemen," he said. 
The Herr Amtschreiber stood at the end of the 
row. He had forgotten to take off his overcoat and 
his soft hat was clutched convulsively in his right 
hand. The Staatszimmer was thick with a murky 
twilight, but through the long windows opposite he 
caught a glimpse of the square glittering in winter 
sunshine. The Grand Duke and his civilian staff 
moved against the light like faceless shadows. But 
the Herr Amtschreiber knew that they were looking 
at him — ^staring at him as though he had been some 
strange animal. He knew that his colleagues were 
thinking of him with a mixture of gloating self-satis- 
faction and pity. 

"Poor devil ! Glad I'm not in his shoes." 
The Grand Duke, cap in hand, had reached the 
door. 

"I wish you good-morning, gentlemen." 
They bowed stiffly and expressionlessly. When the 
door closed they relaxed, stamping their feet and 
moving their arms like schoolboys after a long re- 
straint The Herr Amtschreiber stood apart. He 
tried to say something, to laugh and look unconcerned, 
but he knew that they saw through him and knew that 
he was sick with the premonition of disgrace. 
"Well," he thought, "he can't kill me." 
They heard the clatter of hoofs on the cobbles 
and presently a man came back into the room. He 
was short and thick-set with light-blue protuberant 
eyes. He came up to the Herr Amtschreiber — so close 
to him that it seemed as though he meant to tread 
him down under his feet 

"You choose a strange occasion to over-sleep your- 
self, Herr Felde," he said loudly and coldly. "What 



TOWARDS MORNING 19 

do you suppose the Grand Duke thinks of an admin- 
istration in which the officials behave as you do ? His 
Royal Highness honours us with his presence and you 
stroll in an hour late — ^your coat on — ^anyhow — ^with 
a dirty collar — ^and — ^and crumpled clothes. My God 
—one would think you had been drinking/' 

The Herr Amtschreiber's lips trembled. 

'TExcuse me — ^my wife is ill — I was up all night." 

**What is that to me? Do you think the work of 
the state has to stop still because your wife has a 
headache? Let me tell you, Herr Felde, we expect 
efficiency in this office— efficiency and again efficieiicy. 
Those who can't live up to our standards — well, they 
can take their talents elsewhere. That's all." 

The Herr Amtschreiber did not answer. He made 
a little bow and crept away to his office at the back 
of the Rathaus. His knees shook under him. It was 
as though he had been whipped in public — ^before all 
his fellows. But the shame did not matter. The veiled 
threat mattered. His Bureau-Chef hated him — ^had 
always hated him. And an "entlassense Beamte^' — 3, 
middle-aged official dismissed for inefficiency — ^what 
was he ? An old circus-horse, trained to gallop round 
and round the ring, thrust out to find a living on the 
streets ! 

And there was Clarchen and the mysterious, half- 
realised being who was coming — ^and the Geheimrat 
who would shrug his flat, broad shoulders. 

"He was bound to fail. Too soft — ^much too soft. 
It doesn't do : these are stem times." 

The Herr Amtschreiber bent over his papers. 
Though his head was hot and heavy, he worked with 
a feverish accuracy. The machine revolved round 
him and he who was just a little cog, infinitely signifi- 



20 TOWARDS MORNING 

cant, infinitely insignificant, revolved in measure. If 
he failed there would be a moment's hitch. The en- 
gineer would come burrowing down to the cause and 
wrench him off and throw him to the scrap-heap. 
There would be no recrimination — ^no explanation. It 
was appallingly simple. The cog mattered only so 
long as it served its purpose. It was the machine — 
the machine that mattered always. 

The Herr Amtschreiber forgot himself. The at- 
mosphere of the dingy office stifled all personality — 
all feeling. It smelt of all the little souls that had 
sweated out their life there — and of something mori- 
bund, as though an alien and evil spirit had crept into 
the old Rathaus and was eating out its heart. 

No one spoke to him. His colleagues held aloof 
with an air of condemnation. He felt no surprise 
or pain. It was just. He had sinned. And then 
they too had the spectre of failure at their elbows. 
They too were afraid. Not only for themselves. They 
were thinking of the machine. It was as though at 
the back of their minds was the vision of its collapse — 
of a monstrous cataclysm. 

At last some one came up to him and spoke. It 
was old Heim who had grown grey and bent in the 
Service. He had never risen above the position of a 
clerk and now he was near the end. A cancer ate 
at his vitals and soon he would be going into the 
hospital to die. But he was holding on to his office 
as though it were his life. 

"This has just come for you, Herr Felde." 

The Herr Amtschreiber tore open the untidy en- 
velope. The slip of paper inside was smeared with 
an illiterate scrawl: 



TOWARDS MORNING 21 

"If the Herr Amtschreiber would please come at 
once. The Herr Doktor says so. 

"Anna." 

He sat there blinking over his glasses. His vacant 
wandering blue eyes rested at last in a fascinated stare 
on the broad back of his chief. His hands began 
to tremble and the slip of paper fluttered down on to 
the floor. 

"I can't — " he thought over and over again. "I 
can't '' 

"Herr Amtschreiber.'* 

He turned stupidly. Old Heim was leaning against 
the desk, his face yellow and withered as old parch- 
ment, his dry lips opened in a smothered gasp. 

"Well?" 

"Herr Felde — if I could be excused — ^this after- 
noon — I am not well — ^you know how it is — ^the pain — 
it's very bad." 

Something leapt up out of the dark places of the 
Herr Amtschreiber's heart It was tigerish — ^bestial. 
It had lain there all night, ringed in by enemies, 
goaded and starved, gnawing the roots of its hid- 
ing-place. As it leapt upon its victim the Herr 
Amtschreiber could have screamed out in an ecstasy 
of relief. 

His hand lying on the desk clenched itself to a fist. 

*T>o you perhaps take this for a hospital, Herr 
Heim?" he asked. 

Their eyes met and held for a moment. Then the 
old man turned away. He went back to his desk and 
climbed on to his stool — ^painfully, like a tired child. 

The Herr Amtschreiber bent over his work. The 



22 TOWARDS MORNING 

rims of his eyes stung as though they had been burn^ 
with fire. 



IV 

The cheap lamp nailed to the wall had been shaded 
and in the half obscurity where one form merged it- 
self in another the voice sounded faint and far off as 
the memory of a dream. 

"Our own," it said, "our very own." 

The Herr Amtschreiber pressed his cheek against 
the hand that lay so heavily upon the quilt Gently 
it was withdrawn and fumbling like the hand of some 
one newly blind rested at last on his bowed head, 
soothing him with a pitying, drowsy movement 
"Mustn't cry, Mdnnchen — ^it's all right now — ^it was 
very bad — ^but it's over — ^and it's worth while — to have 
something of our very own." 

"I am so proud," he whispered, " — it is so wonder- 
ful" 

"A life we've made — together — ^to take care of — 
to make happier — ^than we have been." 

"Our son— our son," he repeated simply. 

The doctor and the nurse standing deep in shadow 
smiled palely as though this high-song of thanksgiv- 
ing, so familiar, so eternal, could never lose its pa- 
thetic humour. The doctor bent down and touched 
the kneeling man upon the shoulder. 

"Come !" he said. "You must let her sleep." 

The Herr Amtschreiber stumbled to his feet. He 
did not look at the face that seemed to float like a 
white flower on a dark tide, nor at the unknown who 
slept in the low cradle. He went out, reeling drunk- 
enly, through the door which the doctor held open 



TOWARDS MORNING 23 

for him. His teeth chattered in fever and he put his 
hands against the stove, letting its warm comfort steal 
up through his veins. 

The plump little doctor watched him, still smiling 
and stroking his neat beard. 

"You will take it more calmly next time," he said 
prosaically. "The first is always a shock. One takes 
children so much for granted — ^and other people's chil- 
dren are never wonderful. But you mustn't excite 
her, you know. It won't do— either for her or for 
the child." 

The Herr Amtschreiber lifted his head. 

"I couldn't come," he muttered. "You see, there 
was work at the office ^" 

"Of course. Very admirable of you. It's our old 
German sense of duty. As it happened it was all right 
But I had an anxious quarter of an hour. You see, 
your wife is not so young any more — and in that case 
there is always danger. I thought I might have to 
choose between the two of them — suddenly. There 
was no time to ask you. But she chose. A brave 
woman. I congratulate you, my friend." 

"And the child?" 

"A fine boy — a regular little grenadier." Dr. Roth 
picked up his hat, chuckling. "I'll be round to-mor- 
row. No — don't bother to see me out — ^you're not fit. 
Take a good glass of something to steady you. Good- 
night — good-night — ^my dear fellow." 

The door closed. But a minute later Anna came 
in bearing the lamp. She looked at him, her big shad- 
owed eyes heavy with weariness. Yet there was a 
smile in them — ^that same slow smile of deep, uncon- 
scious wisdom. 



X 



24 TOWARDS MORNING 

"The Herr Amtschreiber is glad that it is a boy?" 
she asked softly. 

**Yes— yes." 

**One is always glad when it is a son," she said. 
'*When I was bom my mother cried. There are too 
many of us." 

"But you have brothers?" he muttered absently. 

"Oh, yes — there were four — two are in America. 
And two are serving their time. It is not easy to 
work the fields without them. In the harvest time 
my mother goes out and gathers in the com. She is 
old now — so old " 

He did not hear her. She went out soft-footed as 
she had come and he stretched his arms above his 
head so that he seemed to himself to grow young and 
strong and tall. The shuddering fear had gone. He 
was a god. His joy lifted him out of the grey crowd 
where he belonged. For a moment romance touched 
him with her golden finger and illuminated him. Once 
before it had come to him— on his wedding night when 
the love that had been so cramped with little sordid 
cares had burst its bonds and shown herself royal 
and reckless even in them. It would come again per- 
haps — surely once again at least with the last ro- 
mance of all. 

He went slowly to the table and sat down. A life- 
old instinct held steadfast in him. There were things 
to be done — 3, note to the Geheimrat — an order to 
the printer — ^a notice to be inserted in the daily paper. 
He drew that morning's Tagblatt towards him and 
turned over the pages. How big was the notice to 
be? Schulrat Vosser had taken the half of two col- 
umns for his daughter. One couldn't do less. That 
would cost over ten marks. Ten marks from a weekly 



TOWARDS MORNING 25 

seventy. And there would be the doctor and the nurse 
and extra help and the chemist's bill 

Perhaps a smaller notice would do. 

The music of a military band escorting a regiment 
home to its barracks came in a thrilling wave from 
the distance. It filled the drab conventional room with 
a fierce glow of colour. It blew fear away as a wind 
drives off a creeping mist. 

The Herr Amtschreiber sat back and dreamed. 

"Happier than we have been!" 

Yes, that was it. Not a failure, struggling and in- 
effectual, not even a cog playing its little part faith- 
fully in the great whole, but an eagle mounting in 
great flights, a new force driving the machine faster 
and more splendidly to its goal. A judge, a general, 
an admiral, a prince of commerce. These things hap- 
pened. They would pinch and save. They would 
manage somehow so that he should spread his young 
wings freely. In him all that they had dreamed would 
come to flower. He would be their hope, their ambi- 
tion, their life. 

They would call him Helmut It was German and 
heroic. It spread a light about it. Helmut — ^bright 
courage. 

He took a clean sheet of paper and began to draw 
up the announcement He made it bigger and more 
splendid even than that of the Schulrat Vosser. His 
lips trembled as he wrote: 

"Herr and Frau Felde joyfully announce to their 
friends that this day a beautiful boy has been bom 
to them.*' 

He framed it in thick black lines so that it looked 
like a shout of triumph. When it was done he dropped 
forward with his face between his hands. 



26 TOWARDS MORNING 

"God grant it !" he whispered. "God grant it !" 
There wa3 quiet and warmth within and without. 
The sweet exhaustion of tears crept up about him in a 
drowsy mist And so the Herr Amtschreiber slept — 
suddenly and peacefully. And in his sleep he heard 
an infant crying. 



CHAPTER II 



At the bottom of all memories were Heinl and Fritz 
Schnatitzchen. There had never been a time when 
Heini was not In a nebulous world of vague gigan- 
tic shapes, now dwindling into distance, Heini stood 
out clear and definite as a rock. His beaming, never 
changing smile, his stiff sawdust limbs stretched out 
in jolly welcome, had received the first word and the 
first conscious caress. He had taken part in the first 
perilous two-legged journey across the dinging-room. 
He had suffered in the disaster. His painted features 
were dimmed with the smear of many tears and the 
jammy kisses of a consoled partner. If he grew less 
sightly with the months that were then as eternities, 
and if there were times when the most ardent shrank 
from his proffered embrace, to Helmut he was still 
the perfect friend whose being had been linked to his 
by hands of almost mystic tmderstanding. 

Quite other was the history of Fritz Schnautzchen, 
who had come later in the glorious period of pram 
emancipation. He was a stray, the Feldes said, apolo- 
getically, and had been "picked up" because of Hel- 
mut's absurd infatuation, but Helmut knew better. He 
knew that they had chosen each other — ^that they "be- 
longed" according to an unwritten and secret law. 
One day in the forest they had met for the first time. 
Helmut had been playing at his mother's side with 

27 



28 TOWARDS MORNING ' 

the fallen fir-cones — ^a mysterious silent game which 
his mother never understood — ^and suddenly Fritz 
Schnautzchen had appeared from among tt^e trees. 
They had stood gazing at each other for a long time, 
not saying anything or moving, and then Fritz 
Schnautzchen had quietly come to a decision. He f fal- 
lowed Helmut's heels to the big grey block of flats in 
the Louisenstrasse, and had waited patiently on the 
door step whilst Helmut howled within for his adop- 
tion. In the end their love had triumphed, and every 
week a twenty-five pfennig piece was set aside towards 
a dog-tax which was in theory to be Helmut's birth- 
day present. 

There was no very clear explanation for Sdmautz- 
chen's unusual and slightly grotesque nomenclature ex- 
cept perhaps in the fact that he himself was unusual 
and more than slightly grotesque. The "Schnautz- 
chen" may have had its origin in the raceless snub nose 
which must have been derived from a pug ancestor — 
the Fritz was unquestionably utilitarian. One could not 
shout "Schnautzchen" with any comfort and certainly 
not with dignity. 

He was, in truth, not beautiful and not even young. 
He was a kind of dog all to himself, baulking descrip- 
tion, and the years weighed heavily upon him. One 
saw that life had not been kind, and behind his dim 
brown eyes was the sad knowledge of inexplicable hu- 
man cruelty. He shrank from men — even from the 
Herr Amtschreiber — ^and women he tolerated wearily. 
He went with no one, followed no one, save his chosen 
god. Helmut he loved. Helmut he followed. When 
the boy played his strange games with his strange 
toys, the dog would sit by and watch gravely. When 
Helmut ran, Fritz Schnautzchen girded up his old loins 



TOWARDS MORNING 29 

and ran too — ^panting but indomitable. In the hours 
which Helmut spent in the Kindergarten Schnautz- 
chen watched with Heini for his return. Or some- 
times Frau Felde would take them with her when 
she went to fetch her son, but this was not often, be- 
cause she was just a little ashamed of both of them. 

Between Heini and Fritz Schnautzchen there must 
have been some alliance. It subtly excluded Helmut 
They made it, as it were, over his head and without 
his knowledge. But it was for his protection. They 
were older and wiser with inarticulate wisdom, and 
they loved him. They had their life from him and 
were ready to give it up for his sake, and knowing 
this of each other they became comrades. There could 
have been no other explanation for a dog's devotion 
to a rag doll. 

As to Heini his attitude and his expression were 
less scrutable. He embraced his ally as he embraced 
every one, with open arms and a wide engaging smile. 

With these two on either side of him, Helmut came 
through the fairy-land of babyhood. 



II 

To Helmut his mother and father were grey peo- 
ple. They were the same colour as the flight of stone 
steps which led up to their flat and the dim hall and the 
faded sitting-room. For a long time he did not even 
realise that they had features but recognised them by 
instinct from the midst of other grey people. And 
they had a disconcerting knack of dwindling and 
growing. For instance on Stmday in the big Luth- 
eran Church in the West-end Strasse they grew big- 



30 TOWARDS MORNING 

ger, as though the slow rolling hymns and packed mass 
of other dull clad people, singing with all their might, 
reinforced them and gave them confidence and dig- 
nity. But after the service when they walked out 
together in the forest which girdled the town like a 
deep green sea, they faded again. They walked stiffly 
and anxiously in their best clothes. They looked to 
right and left and bowed to every one they knew, and 
talked about them in low tones, and the vividness 
and straight tall strength of the trees made them col- 
ourless and subdued. 

But even when they were most faded, most grey, 
they were still omnipresent Heini and Schnautzchen 
were bright and definite realities, but they came and 
went. His mother and father were about him always. 
Like a low cloud they encompassed his going and his 
coming. He loved them, but a queer pain mingled 
itself with his love. A nerve united them to one an- 
other, but it was a nerve that ached under secret, con- 
stant pressure. He knew, though, without reasoning 
that they were always thinking about him, watching 
him, waiting. He felt that when they were alone 
they talked about him, even when they talked of other 
things — of the Herr Geheimrat, or the Bureau Chef, 
or the hope of promotion, or the cost of living, they 
looked at him as though he were the real significance 
of these things. 

Once when he had been playing with Schnautzchen 
and Heini his mother had called him, and he had not 
instantly obeyed. At last when he came, panting and 
rosy-cheeked, half laughing, half defiant, his mother 
had put her hands on his shoulders and he had felt 
them tremble. Her plain round face was close to 
his, and for the first time she came out of her mist 



«1 

"] 

it* 



TOWARDS MORNING 31 

and he saw her clearly. He remembered her as she 
was then ever afterwards, and for the first time too, 
he saw himself. 

"Helmut — you must obey— obey always," she said. 
"Unless you obey you will never command, you will 
never be strong, you will- never be a great man. You 
will never be of any use. We have all got to obey." 
Why?" he asked truculently. 
It is our duty." 
^Whatisduty?" 

The greatest thing in the world." It was strange 
what hardness, what sternness came into her face. 
And yet behind it all he felt the pain. "Duty is what 
we owe our country. A sense of duty is the greatest 
German virtue. Promise me, Helmut — ^promise 
me 

He did not know what she asked but he took a deep 
breath. 

"I'll try," he said solemnly. "Fll try hard.'* 

She caressed him with hard, eager hands. 

"We love you, Helmut — ^you must always remember 
that we love you." 

And hereafter his games were never quite the same, 
and their love weighed upon him like a burden. A 
spectre stalked beside him, waiting for its moment 
to seize him and devour him. 

It was tall and grim and pitiless. And it was called 
Duty. 

m 

He believed most in the things he could not see. In 
spite of the Geheimrat who explained the mechanism 
carefully to him, he believed in a little friendly spirit 



32 TOWARDS MORNING 

who, when you rang the bell outside the big door 
downstairs, lifted the latch and let you in. He be- 
lieved in a brilliant dashing person who could fill a 
pitch dark room with a blaze of light, and every now 
and then turned crusty and wouldn't He could al- 
most see the crowds of tiny grey men pushing the 
trams along and clanging a bell. He did see them 
at night in the Stadtgarten when the band played and 
the lights twinkled, and the black-coated waiters ran 
hither and thither like worried moths. He saw them 
then under the shadow of the trees. They smoked 
their long pipes and drank out of their little mugs of 
beer, and nodded their heads to the music. 

He believed in fairies — ^not in the conventional fair- 
ies of the books, for he had never heard of them — ^but 
in the fairies from Anna's village in the mountains. 
Anna was married now and had a ricketty, heavy- 
headed baby which she loved. She was softer and 
sadder-eyed than ever. On Fridays and Tuesdays she 
came in to help Frau Felde clean, and when she was 
eating her lundi of dry bread and coffee she told Hel- 
mut about her home and about the fairies. It appeared 
that they were a queer people, not friendly — ^not un- 
friendly. They treated human beings like selfish in- 
truders — ^more stupid than wicked — whom one teased, 
or helped, or ptmished according to their merit. To 
the really ill-intentioned they could be exceedingly 
nasty. For instance, there was old Hansel who had 
deliberately planted a potato patch on their favourite 
ball-room, his potatoes did not flourish you may be 
sure, and his pigs died one after another, and finally 
old Hansel himself. And every night they dance on 
his grave so that he can't sleep. 

Helmut looked forward to Tuesdays and Fridays, 



TOWARDS MORNING 33 

and most of all to Saturday. On Saturday when it 
was fine they all five — Heini and Schnautzchen in- 
cluded — ^took the tram to the Durlacher Turm, which 
was a Roman watch-tower on a hill overlooking the 
Rhine, and climbing up by a minute ftmicular train 
wandered through the forests and over the fields to 
an inn where there was coffee and Apfelkuchen, and 
sometimes new wine tasting sweet and strong of the 
grape. An old stork, whose wing had been injured 
in babyhood, kept guard in the courtyard, standing 
on one miraculously thin leg and klappering with his 
beak to show his disapproval of little boys like Helmut 

One special Saturday in spring they went out into 
the woods to gather the lilies of the valley. The air 
sparkled as though the sun had given it a special pol- 
ishing after the long winter, and the fruit trees lay 
white as snow on the hills. But one tree bore no 
blossoms. It stood bleak and grey among its fellows 
holding out its gaunt arms pitifully. 

"The poor tree is dead," said Helmut's mother. 

He stood looking up into the branches, his arms full 
of the green-sheathed spoils. 

"Do trees die ?" he asked, "and flowers ?" 

The Herr Amtschreiber pointed with his stick. 

"Someone has torn off the bark and injured the 
trunk. Look where the sap has run out." 

"What is sap?" 

"It is like our blood." He took a lily of the valley 
and showed the pale greenish moisture where the stem 
had been snapped. "You see, it's the same thing, its 
life is running away. It's been torn in half, as it 
were. Of course we can keep it fresh in water for a 
day or two, but it's dying — one might say dead." 

"I killed it," said Helmut slowly. 



34 TOWARDS MORNING 

They were not looking at him. 

"Think how pretty they will be in the big vase/' 
said Frau Felde. "That is what they were made for." 

They walked on, Helmut lingered behind. He was 
whiter than the apple tree and shivering as though 
with cold. He knelt down and dug in the soft earth, 
Schnautzchen, with dim memories of rabbit-hunts, 
helping feebly. In the hole Helmut laid his flowers 
and covered them with leaves. 

"I didn't know," he said. "I didn't know you were 
alive like me. I won't hurt any of you again ever " 

He said his little evening hymn over them. It be- 
gan : "I am very little but my heart is pure and belongs 
to Jesus and Jesus alone." He did not know quite 
what it meant but it was all he could think of. Fritz 
Schnautzchen sat by and blinked wisely and Heini lay 
on his back and smiled up at the sun. 

Helmut did not gather any more flowers. And 
there was no Apfelkuchen for him that day either. He 
came back huddled in the comer of the tram, in dis- 
grace and crying softly. He fell asleep at last worn 
out with grief, and the Herr Amtschreiber had to 
carry him home in his arms. 

"He must learn to obey," the Herr Amtschreiber 
panted. "Whatever else he learns he must learn that" 

Frau Felde looked at the fair rotmd head. 

"He is so young," she said pleadingly — and then 
as though she were ashamed — "Yes, it is better for 
him that he should learn now." 



IV 

There had been other Christmases, but they had 
come suddenly, as it were, bursting into view like sky- 



TOWARDS MORNING 35 

rockets — ^and such eternities had passed before another 
came along that Helmut had almost forgotten about 
them. But he felt this one coming. He recognised the 
signs and remembered the thrill in the air which grew 
stronger and more exciting every day. There was 
the advent of marzipan animals in the windows of 
the Conditoreis, fir trees began to cluster outside the 
flower shops, people went about carrying parcels and 
talking mysteriously. On Sunday all the shops were 
open, and peasants in bullock wagons and wearing their 
best broadcloth came pouring in, always in greater 
numbers. They moved about slowly and with dig- 
nity, and refused to make up their minds and were 
very suspicious of the assistant, who, in the end, sold 
them whatever she most wanted to get rid of. 

Copper Sunday ! Silver Sunday ! Golden Sunday ! 

If the other Christmases had been like sky-rockets 
this one was like the slow splendid rising of a winter 
stm. 

Christmas Eve! Pandemonium in the shops. Al- 
ways somebody who had forgotten something. A wild 
rushing hither and thither. Over-laden postmen ap- 
pearing at all sorts of unorthodox hours. An absurd 
excitement on the most soured elderly countenances. 
A whole town feverishly doing and thinking the same 
things. 

In the Felde's flat the dining room had become a 
place of mystery, closed to all but the high priests. 
The double doors were locked and the key-hole pasted 
over. Helmut and Heini and Schnautzdien sat close 
together on a chair in the passage, and stared in awe- 
struck longing; even if the doors hadn't been locked 
they would not have dared look in. It was a sort of 
glorious Blue Beard's chamber. 



36 TOWARDS MORNING 

At last twilight added its mystery to the growing 
tension. Frau Felde changed into her best plaid silk 
blouse, the Herr Amtschreiber arrived from the office 
with the Herr Geheimrat and his long thin wife and 
their seven year old son Kurt close on his heels. (They 
were just looking in before their own festivities began, 
they said.) Then came Tante Louise, the post office 
official's widow, and two elderly female cousins with 
their husbands, who were going to stay all the time. 
But the real piice de resistance was of course the 
Geheimrat. 

Kurt and Helmut sat together in the hall. They 
did not speak to one another. Kurt despised Helmut 
and Helmut hated Kurt, if it was only for the way 
he looked at Heini, and they were both scowling when 
a bell tinkled and the folding doors were flung wide. 

Helmut rushed in with Schnautzchen barking quite 
youthfully at his heels. Kurt followed deliberately. 
It wasn't his tree, and anyhow he didn't think much 
of it. It stood in the comer and hardly touched the 
ceiling, and there was no snow on it, and the shiny 
coloured balls were few and far between. But to Hel- 
mut it was the biggest and finest tree he had ever 
seen. The dark branches shone with candles and 
arched themselves under their many strange shaped 
burdens, and there was the sweetest smell of burning 
wood. 

Frau Felde sat at the piano and her hard work-worn 
fingers touched the keys softly, and they all stood still 
and looked at the fir tree whilst they sang: 



O, Tannenbaum, 0, Tannenbaum — 
Wie griin sind deine Blatter — '* 



TOWARDS MORNING 37 

When it was over Helmut advanced shyly towards 
his parcels. And first of all he took down Schnautz- 
chen's bone all tied up in ribbon, and Schnautzchen 
tried to beg, and finally carried off his Christmas pres- 
ent in triumph and hid himself under the table as 
though he were afraid of encountering an envious 
enemy. 

Every one laughed except Kurt who looked bored 
and scornful. 

And there were sweets — sweets ever)rwhere. Hel- 
mut's cheeks bulged with sweets so that his kiss of 
gratitude was no unmixed blessing. The floor was 
strewed with paper from the recklessly opened par- 
cels. A toy cart, an engine, an indiarubber ball, a 
pair of socks knitted by Tante Louise, which Helmut 
didn't care for at all. The finest parcel came last of 
all. The Geheimrat, looking bigger and more impor- 
tant than ever, helped him to undo the wrappings. 
Something glittered, and then as the last piece of 
tissue paper fell away a complete Cuirassier's uniform, 
breast-plate, sword and trappings, shone brazenly in 
the soft candle light. 

There was an "Oh !" of astonishment and admiration 
subtly directed at the Geheimrat, who stroked his 
black moustache and chuckled. 

"Now we are going to make a real man of you, 
Helmut!" 

Helmut did not answer. He was quite still whilst 
they buckled on his tmiform. A strange feeling came 
over him. His splendour dazzled him — ^and yet tears 
were not far off. He caught a glimpse of somebody 
in the Venetian glass, and suddenly he was fright- 
ened. He did not recognise the small stiff figure in 
the glittering breast-plate or the set face under the 



38 TOWARDS MORNING 

shadow of the helmet. It was as though a witch — 
one of Anna's wicked old witches — ^had waved her 
wand and changed him. 

"Come — out with your sword — ^present arms — ^head 
up, my boy " 

Mechanically he dragged the toy weapon from its 
scabbard, but he did not know what to do with it 
How did one present arms? The Geheimrat towered 
over him. His dark puffy face came closer and closer. 
It was laughing, and yet in its gross proximity hideous 
and evil. Helmut shrank back, everybody was laugh- 
ing at him — ^watching and smiling stiffly. He was lost 
among all these faces. He sought his mother but her 
eyes were hard. It was as though she knew he was 
going to cry — ^and threatened him. 

The Geheimratin's voice sotmded shrill with mock- 
ery. 

"Oh, what a silly baby ! Kurt can salute like a real 
soldier — Kurt, show Helmut." 

"Wait !" said the Geheimrat. He had seen the tear 
rolling down the flushed cheek. He still laughed, but 
a dull anger stirred in him. He was in a holiday 
mood. He condescended to throw off his dignity and 
play like any ordinary person, and it insulted him that 
this child should cry. It made him ridiculous in the 
eyes of all these watchers — these poor feckless rela- 
tions, who had never done anything but fail all their 
lives. And the Geheimrat had never failed. He 
laughed more loudly. "Just wait — Helmut can't drill 
yet — ^but he can fight, I wager, like a lion." And 
suddenly he caught up Heini by one of the out- 
stretched arms — ^gingerly — ^and dropped him on a va- 
cant chair by the stove. "Now, then, my young sol- 
dier, that's what we're going to fight for. You're a 



TOWARDS MORNING 39 

German and Fm a beastly Englishman coming to take 
yotir precious treasure from you. Now, lode out — 
I'm coming " 

He seized one of the best cushions and holding it 
like a shield advanced threateningly. Every one 
laughed and clapped their hands. How charming of 
the Geheimrat! How wonderful he was with chil- 
dren — ^the life of the party. And their whispered flat- 
tery came to the big man's ears. He capered terrify- 
ingly. 

"Come on, my fine fellow — en garde!" 

For a minute Helmut stood as one paralysed, and 
then something woke in him — something new, never 
before experienced. It was like the rush of a great 
wind through his shaken soul. Imagination caught 
fire and flamed up in anger and terror. Heini in dan- 
ger — Heini in danger! and the great black figure 
loomed up nearer. In the sheerest panic he struck 
out wildly — ^with all his strength. 

The point of the sword caught the Geheimrat on 
the wrist. He laughed again, but the blow had hurt. 
"Ah, you would, would you ! Wait, my cockerel." 

He made a grasp at Heini lying against the back 
of the chair and smiling serenely upon them all. The 
red clutching hand filled Helmut's vision. He flew 
at it like a mad thing — screaming — frenzied with fear 
and rage. He hurled himself against his aggressor, 
beating him with his clenched fists, tearing at him. 

"Leave Heini alone — don't you touch my Heini." 

And suddenly his sharp white teeth bit on the red 
hand. The Geheimrat did not laugh now. He shook 
the child off as though he had been a rat. Deliberately, 
terribly, he lifted the rag-doll and opened the slot of 
the glowing stove. Just for an instant Heini stood 



40 TOWARDS MORNING 

out in shadow against the light — ^then vanished — ^head 
foremost — arms and legs outstretched — friendly and 
grinning to the end. 

"I think I score," said the Geheimrat, smiling and 
pulling at his disordered cuffs. 

They all laughed again. 

But Helmut did not move. He was staring stu- 
pidly, his helmet over one ear, his small face livid and 
contorted. And then suddenly he dropped where he 
stood. 

Someone ran to him. Someone picked him up. 
He heard the Geheimrat's voice booming a long way 
off. 

"Over excitement — ^too many sweets — a rag-doll 
like that for a boy — idiotic — ^too soft — ^must make a 
man of him, my dear Felde — make a man of him." 

And then all was dark. 

It was all dark for a long time — dark and very still. 
He lay quiet, thinking about his head which ached so 
and his eyes which burnt as though he had been crying. 
He knew that he was in bed, but he did not remem- 
ber how he got there or what had happened. He 
wondered if Christmas Eve were to-morrow— or next 
week. He wanted it so, and it had such a tiresome 
way of always being next week. 

He felt alone and frightened. 

He pushed his feet down gingerly. There was 
Schnautzchen sure enough curled up at the foot of 
the bed and snoring softly. The sound comforted 
him. He put his arm outside the bedclothes and groped 
about for the chair at his side where Heini slept at 
night Sometimes — ^as a great treat — ^usually after 
a bad dream, Heini was taken in and reassured and 



TOWARDS MORNING 41 

cuddled till they both went to. sleep in each other's 
arms. 

But there was no chair. Where the chair had been 
there was just emptiness. 

And suddenly his heart began to beat, so that it 
seemed it would burst in his breast 

"Heini— oh, Heini !" 

Heini was dead. Heini had been killed. Heini 
would never come again. No, that wasn't true, it 
wasn't possible. Heini had always been there — Heini 
had always known everything — ^understood every- 
thing. It couldn't be that he would never see him 
again — ^never hold him in his arms — ^never tell him 
secrets. It was one of the bad dreams. In a minute 
his hand would find the chair and Heine's podgy little 
body, and they would be locked together. 

"Heini— Heini " 

Like a coloured cinematograph picture he saw the 
red gaping mouth of the stove and Heini's shadow — 
spread-eagle fashion, sliding into the depths. 

Once he had burnt his finger. It had hurt unfor- 
gettably. And Heini had been burnt like that — ^all 
over — ^till he was dead. And he, his friend, had stood 
by and seen it done. He hadn't stopped it. He hadn't 
even killed the murderer 

"Heini !" 

Still he couldn't believe. He hurled himself against 
the truth, just as he had hurled himself against the 
Geheimrat, beating at it with clenched, impotent fists. 
He twisted about in convulsive, physical anguish. 

"Heini — oh, Heini— come bade." 

Then things happened like that, and there were 
things that never could come back — ^that God Himself 
couldn't mend. Heini had been good. He had never 



42 TOWARDS MORNING 

been unkind or untruthful. But it wasn't enough to 
be good. People told you lies. You had to be strong 
too — strong as the Geheimrat — stronger 

Then God paid attention to what you said. 

He sat up violently. He did not know what he had 
heard. It was not so dark any more. A pale starlight 
came through the slits in the shutters and he could 
just see the dim shapes of the furniture. The chair 
where Heini had slept stood against the wall. Heini 
was not there — ^but there was something else — a shim- 
mering ghostly body — ^squat and upright — ^with a sil- 
ver head. 

He knew what it was. The knowledge made him 
more afraid. It drove the sweat out on his face. He 
could not move his eyes. The thing fascinated him 
evilly. There was the sword leaning against the chair. 
He had worn it. If he had been strong enough he 
could have driven it into the Geheimrat's heart. He 
could have saved Heini 

One had to be strong. 

The light was brightning. It flashed on the silver 
head-piece— on the round shining belly. They moved. 
Yes, he saw them move. Suddenly Schnautzchen's 
heavy breathing stopped. He sat up — growling — his 
pricked ears silhouetted against the light. A real body 
inside the breast-plate reared itself up on black in- 
visible legs. It grew taller — ^monstrous. There was 
a head under the helmet. The face lay in deep shadow 
— ^but it was there — ^and he knew whose face it was. 
It came nearer and nearer. There was something 
grotesque about it. It waddled. One could have 
laughed. It grinned at Helmut, its eyes hollow — its 
teeth shining under the black moustache. The sword 
clanked at its side. 



TOWARDS MORNING 43 

"Gmie — ^we must make a man of you — a man of 
you/* 

Sdinautzchen crept up the bed into his master's 
arms. G)nvulsively Helmut clung to him, shielding 
him, his teeth clenched, the hair rising on his head. 

"No, you shan't — ^you shan't" 

Nearer it came. It bent over him. It was quite 
close when in an instant it changed. The moustache 
vanished. It was his own face — ^as he had seen it 
in the glass — ^twisted, livid, frightful. 

And then he screamed — screamed, so that the night 
rang with his mortal terror. 



CHAPTER III 



*'He is so young/* said Frau Felde. 

She sat very stiff and upright in her chair, her 
plump figure tight-cased in the cheap coat, her gloved 
hands clasped over her bag. "He is so young," she 
said. There was no expression on her face. It re- 
mained stolid and almost hard. Yet they turned on 
her as though her voice irritated them. Only the 
Herr Amtschreiber did not look at her, but sat star- 
ing between his knees at the carpet 

The Frau Geheimratin laughed. 

"How sentimental you are, Clara. Kurt has been 
at school for a whole year, he is already in the Quinta. 
The sooner a boy goes into harness the better." 

"We can't have a fool in the family," the Geheim- 
rat added. He stood very big and black against the 
window, seeming to blot out the light. His tone said : 
"another fool," and the Herr Amtschreiber wilted and 
shrank into his ill-fitting overcoat. "As I have told 
you I am willing to do all I can for Helmut. I will 
give him a start in life in any reasonable profession. 
But there must be some order and discipline in his 
education. If I am to have anything to do with him it 
must be on my terms. He is already inclined to a 
foolish dreaminess and softness. We don't want to 
encourage the type. We've had enough of it in the 
past We want men with iron brains and iron fists. 

44 



TOWARDS MORNING 45 

Helmut may have brains — ^I don't know. He seems 
to me rather slow. The more reason why he should 
begin his proper school career at once. In any other 
case I should feel obliged to refuse any responsi- 
bility." 

Frau Felde did not answer. A faint flush had risen 
to her cheeks. The Herr Amtschreiber peered over 
his spectacles. 

"You are quite right — quite right, of course. Hel- 
mut must go to the Gymnasitun at once." He cleared 
his throat humbly. "Absolutely right," he mtunbled. 

The Geheimrat smiled and stroked his sweeping 
black moustache. 

I think I am — I really think I am." 
'Of course you are," his wife ejaculated almost 
angrily. 

"He is so young," Frau Felde repeated. But it was 
in a whisper. It seemed to come against her will, 
and her lips closed themselves into a tight line, so 
that they should not disobey again. 

The Geheimratin yawned openly. 

"And now for heaven's sake let us talk of some- 
thing else," she said. 



n 



tr 






'Good-morning, boys!" 
'Good-morning, Herr Oberlehrer!" 
There was a sound like the sudden rising of a wind. 
Through the open window Helmut could see the 
high stone wall and the green tops of the trees. One 
tree grew quite near to the wall. Its branches, deli- 
cately clad with soft half-open buds, hung right over 
into the courtyard. They had a shy yet mocking air 



46 TOWARDS MORNING 

of deliberate intrusion, it was as though they said: 
"What a dull place! Let us see what we can do for 
it" 

Suddenly something brown and flashing appeared 
among them. It flashed and then sat still — so still 
that it seemed that it must have been there always — 
its fuzzy tail curled up in a mark of interrogation, 
its bright eye alert for the answer. A light breeze 
ruffled its furry coat, and set the shadow of the 
branches dancing over the wall. 

Helmut held his breath. He was afraid to move. 
He had never seen one so close — so still. 

"You there — what's your name?" 

A voice fell like a dull thud somewhere in the dis- 
tance. The squirrel blinked, flashed again and was 
gone. Evidently it did not like the voice — and no 
wonder. But perhaps if one was very, still it would 
come again. 

"Are you deaf, my yotmg gentleman, or is it the 
custom in your part of the world not to answer when 
you are spoken to?" 

Helmut turned slowly. Staring so fixedly into the 
bright morning light had dazed him. But he knew 
something had changed. There was a man seated at 
the high desk against the wall. All the boys were on 
their feet He could not see properly yet, their faces 
were blank. 

"Take your time, my friend. I am entirely at your 
disposal. Pray do not disturb yourself in any way." 

The voice rasped. Some one tittered and there was 
a little sputter of laughter all over the room — like the 
crackling of a damp squib. The man at the desk leant 
forward, his chin resting on one hand. Helmut could 
see him clearly now. He was narrow- faced and wore 



TOWARDS MORNING 47 

a fair moustache, which showed his straight tight 
mouth. His eyes were deep set and brown and lus- 
treless. They had the glazed look of an angry animal. 

**When you feel disposed will you be so gracious as 
to stand up, my unknown young friend ?" he asked. 

Helmut stood up at last — ^but painfully as though 
his limbs had turned to lead. They were all looking 
at him, their round faces full of suppressed malicious 
merriment A minute before he had just been one of 
them, and now he was alone — ^in the midst of a world 
of eyes. 

"What is your name?" 

"Hehnut" 

His own voice sounded strange and unfamiliar. 

"I see — ^you are the only Helmut in the world. You 
do not need to distinguish yourself like other mor- 
tals. Come, your other name, sir !" 

"Helmut— Fdde!" 

"Good. Our acquaintanceship progresses." The 
lean black body inclined itself satirically. "Names dp 
not seem to come easily to you, however. Do you 
happen to know where you are living?" 

The numbness seemed to be creeping up into his 
brain. 

"Louisenstrasse 51, on the fourth floor " 

The laughter burbled afresh. The blood mounted to 
the boy's fair hair. His eyes fixed themselves on the 
man's mouth — ^twisted into a bitter smile. 

"That is most interesting. You have here, boys, 
a case of the lesser being more than the greater. Karl- 
stadt is evidently not so important as the Louisen- 
strasse — ^let alone the fourth storey at number 51. But 
perhaps you know the name of your cotmtry " 

"Baden," came the low stifled answer. 



48 TOWARDS MORNING 



t< 



'Ah — ^ha — Germany doesn't count. And who gov- 
erns you, pray?" 

"The Grand— Du— The Emperor " 

"Emperor who ?" 

There was a silence. His lips moved. A mist swam 
before him. For a moment everything was blotted out 
by a mad terror. If his limbs had not been so heavy 
he would have sprtmg out of the window — ^run home — 
anywhere from that rising gale of laughter — from 
those dead eyes — from that cruel mouth 

"Emperor who——?" 

He was lost. It had always been just "the Em- 
peror — 



» 



<«T J^-»i. 1 ^ 99 



'I don't know 

Suddenly it was quiet Nobody laughed any more. 
They were watching the man seated at the desk. There 
was a look of horror — smug, childishly feigned — on 
the round faces. They waited as for something at 
once terrible and delicious. 

"It gives me pleasure, Herr Helmut Felde, to find 
that there is something left for me to teach you." 
The voice unsheathed itself. "You are a fool — a 
half-wit I do not tolerate half-wits in my class. Un- 
derstand that If the dear God shapes tfiem without 
brains I reshape them. I shall reshape you — ^at any 
cost Now sit down. I am going to begin." 

Helmut slipped back into his seat His desk tow- 
ered over him, but it was not big enough to hide him. 
There was nothing in the world big enough to hide 
him. And yet he was so small — so lost 

"Von Priitwitz — ^begin line forty-two— to line 
sixty-two " the voice commanded dispassionately. 



TOWARDS MORNING 49 

m 

The bell clanged. They began to troop out of the 
class-room, two by two, in order and without noise. 
Helmut came last of all. He was giddy and breath- 
less as though he had been beaten physically and as 
he passed under the dull all-seeing eyes he stumbled. 
The eyes made note of the stumble. They wrote it 
down where it would not be forgotten. 

"Frightened? Good. We will frighten the fright 
out of you." 

The playground was stone-paved and grey. Ex- 
cept for the one inquisitive tree and the forest green 
that shone distantly through the bars of the iron gates 
there was no touch of colour. Even the sunlight had 
the wan pallor of captivity. 

A man stood in the middle of the square and swung 
a hand-bell. He did it negligently — rather contemp- 
tuously. Nobody seemed to notice him. He was huge 
and broad-shouldered — ^unlike any of the other mas- 
ters. For one thing he was not dressed like them. A 
velvet jacket and a flowing tie took the place of the 
rigid, tightly buttoned frock-coat and his brown beard 
and leonine head of hair added to his strangeness. Al- 
together there was something laughable and yet free 
about him — like a scarecrow fluttering its ragged in- 
dependence among a flock of orderly young sheep. 

Helmut kept close to the school-house wall. He 
dared not look at any one. He was still trying to 
hide, but out here it was more than ever impossible. 
His class-mates eddied about him. They peered into 
his face, at first inquisitively, and then as they felt his 
shrinking terror with a wsJdng, surging love of tor- 
ment. But as yet it was inarticulate. Kurt Kohler, 



so TOWARDS MORNING 

standing square and dominating inside the circle, gave 
them their lead. 

''You did make a fool of yourself, I must say. A 
pretty thing for me to have — ^a half-wit — for a cousin." 

"A half-wit ! A half-wit!" 

They pounced on the cry like a pack of hounds. 

"Who's the German Emperor ?" 

"He doesn't know !" 

"What's Germany?" 

"He doesn't know !" 

"A half-wit!" 

They made a circle round him. Sharpening their 
first-fingers at him with their ancient gesture of mock- 
ery, they began to dance. 

"Atch! Atch! Atch! He doesn't know! He 
doesn't know!" 

The monotonous inflection of their shrill young 
voices fell like a lash, striking again and again on the 
same raw, aching wound. But he held out Some- 
where in the depths of him he found a patience that 
could endure pain. It was Kurt who hurt too much. 
Kurt did not dance with the rest He stood and 
stared down at Helmut, his arms folded, his pale 
heavy-lidded eyes full of gratified malice. He had 
looked like that when Heini had been thrown into 
the fire. He looked like the Geheimrat 

Helmut's scattered senses focussed on him. They 
sprang to recollection and the old unforgotten wrong 
leaped up from its hiding place. He began to trem- 
ble. And his own trembling terrified him. It was 
the first whisper of a storm that he could not stand 
against For even then he knew dimly of something 
that slumbered tmder his timidity and patience — 



TOWARDS MORNING 51 

something incalculable and uncalculating — a master- 
less frenzy. 

"Please — ^please,. Kurt, don't tease me/' he pleaded. 

"Atch! Atch! Atch! He doesn't know " 

"You leave me alone, Kurt." 

"I'm not speaking to you. I'm not looking at you, 
am I ? I wouldn't touch you — ^beastly little half-wit !" 

The storm had him between its teeth and shook him 
off his feet. Like a yoimg bull, head down, he charged 
into the jeering figure which went over before him 
with the sudden completeness of a ninepin. The tri- 
tunph was short-lived. The pack hurled itself upon 
the conqueror. Blows and kicks rained upon him. 
He felt none of them. He went Berserk, tearing, 
screaming, struggling, imtil suddenly the whirlwind 
dropped him and he stood alone, panting and wild- 
eyed in the midst of a sullen silence. 

"You young demons! Have you no sense of de- 
cency? One against twenty! Pfui! Clear off — the 
lot of you — to your business !" 

They slunk away like puppies whipped oflF an ille- 
gitimate bone and the big man and the little boy re- 
mained alone, looking at one another. Helmut's rage 
had left him. He still trembled, but now it was with 
cold and shame and wretchedness. 

"What is your name, Kleine ?" 

"Helmut— Helmut Felde, Herr Lehrer." 

"Bless you — I'm not a Herr Lehrer, God be praised. 
I'm Herr Heilig. I'm usher and ring the bell and 
see that you don't behave too much like little boys. 
Why did you fly at young Kohler like that?" 

"He — he had made fun of me." 

"Well — ^you are rather a comical little object. But 
what was the real cause?" 



52 TOWARDS MORNING 

"I said — I told the Herr Lehrer — I didn't know the 
Emperor's name." 

A mufHed roar came from behind the tawny beard. 
The giant shook with laughter. 

"And they found that funny? No, my son, I don't 
believe it. They weren't amused. They writhed. It 
was hysterics following on a severe nervous shock. 
Helmut Felde, you're not going to add to all your 
other sins by crying, are you?" 

The child looked up into the twinkling hazel eyes 
and choked back a sob. 

''No^I'm not" 

"Fine. I was afraid you might — ^and that would 
have been an anti-climax. A young devil like you 
ought to go to the gallows smiling. There — I won't 
tease you. I ought to make you drill or do something 
else you don't want to, but I'll let you off this time. 
Got a handkerchief?" 

Helmut searched wildly round the belt of his over- 
all where that symbol of civilisation was supposed 
to hang. 

It's gone, Herr Heilig." 

'Well, there's mine. Wipe your face with it. 
Don't you let things get a hold of you, my son. Fight 
'em off. If they get too much for you you come along 
to me. I like you. A fellow of your age who doesn't 
know the Emperor's name must be something out of 
the ordinary. Must have a touch of genius." 

"Yes, Herr Heilig." 

"But don't you get puflfed up about it. And for 
heaven's sake don't boast about it There's nothing 
they'll like less in this establishment. If you've got 
any more things you don't know of that nature you 
keep them for me. Understand?" 



"] 



TOWARDS MORNING 53 



"Yes, Herr HeiUg/' 

"Then run along." 

Helmut did not run. He went slowly, not know- 
ing quite where to go. His late assailants had fallen 
into groups and were playing in a bored, desultory 
fashion, but at least they took no further notice of 
him. Kurt had vanished altogether. Helmut thought 
of the squirrel and the shining tree. Its shadow was 
already occupied, but now his fear of isolation smoth- 
ered his fear of mockery. Besides, these two boys 
had taken no part in the attack. The one sat tailor- 
fashion, his head in his hands, a book between his 
knees, whilst his companion stood by his side and 
munched a Butterbrdtchen, eyeing Helmut dispassion- 
ately but not unkindly. 

"Hullo!" 

"Hullo 1" 

"Are you the chap that knocked Kohler over ?" 

"Yes. I — I suppose so." 

"You ought to know. What's your name?" 

"Felde— Helmut." 

"Mine's von Priitwitz. This is Schultz. New, 
aren't you?" 

"Yes." 

"Beastly place. You'll hate it" 

Helmut drew nearer, like a timid young animal. A 
faint after-gust of the storm sent the blood to the 
roots of his fair hair. 

"I hate it now," he said slowly. "I hate every one 
here. They're cruel — ^all of them — they laughed — 
it was unkind — I wouldn't have laughed." 

"I expect they only did it to please old Sheepshanks. 
It puts him in a good temper and takes up time." Von 
Priitwitz brushed the crumbs off his overall with a 



J 



54 TOWARDS MORNING 

hand that was like a girl's in its shapely whiteness. 
"I hate it too, of course. We all do. But it's got 
to be gone through. They make us learn and we've 
got to learn." 

"I don't want to learn," Helmut muttered fiercely. 
"I want to do as I like." 

The boy considered him thoughtfully. 

"YovL can't do that," he said. "Nobody can. And 
of course you've got to learn. If you don't you won't 
get through your Einjdhrige's exam, and then where 
will you be? Besides you won't get on — ^you won't 
be of any use. You'll be a failure." 

Helmut did not answer. A dull, tired feeling came 
over him. It was as though he had been struggling 
for a long time with some one who held him tight and 
repeated the same thing to him over and over again. 
And now he couldn't struggle any more. He looked 
wonderingly at the boy standing opposite him. He 
was not like any of the boys he had played and worked 
with in the Kindergarten. He was so much older. 
He talked like a man who knew, who had thought 
and come to a decision. Even in his bearing there 
was something composed, settled. And he was good 
to look at, too — ^with his small aquiline features and 
transparent skin and steel blue eyes that returned Hel- 
mut's gaze so calmly. 

"What's your father?" 

"An official — ^in the Stadtamt." 

"Mine was an officer. A Captain in the Kolonie 
Truppen. He was Kuirassier first of all, but he changed 
over. He wanted to fight. And he was killed out in 
West Africa— chasing Hereros. He would have been 
a general in time. All of us have been generals." 

"Oh!" said Helmut He felt that to be an Amt- 



TOWARDS MORNING 55 

schreiber was to be as grey and dull as the courtyard. 
He almost wished his father had been killed. "I 
s'ppose you'll be a soldier too V he asked timidly. 

"Of course. I was to have gone into a Cadet School 
but I wasn't strong enough. They grill you there, I 
can tell you. But I'm getting on now. In another ten 
years I shall be an ensign — in a line regiment We're 
beastly poor, you know. But it doesn't matter. There'll 
be a war perhaps and I'll do something big. Like my 
grandfather. He was at Gravelotte and led the 
charge. I am to have his sword." A sudden flush 
rose up under his fair skin. "If only war doesn't 
come too soon — ^before I'm grown up. It's that I'm 
so afraid of." 

There was a real emotion in his voice — a real fear. 
Helmut thought suddenly — ^he did not know why — 
of the Geheimrat and of Heini slipping into the flames. 

"I'd hate to kill people," he stammered. 

" or be killed," von Priitwitz laughed. "One 

doesn't think of it like that," he went on impatiently. 
"It's the glory — ^the fighting— one man against an- 
other — ^you or him — ^and every man you strike down 
is something done for your King — for your country. 
You prove what you're made of. You prove you're 
a man. How can you prove that in a stuffy office " 

The boy Schultz lifted his head. 

"I wish to God you wouldn't talk!" he burst out 
hoarsely. "I can't think with you going on like that. 
I can't get this into my head. I — I can't fix it. I don't 
know what'U happen. Oh, for God's sake — shut up." 

He looked about him wildly and his face struck 
cold, unreasoning fear into Helmut's heart. It was 
old and fat and shapeless. The features lost them- 
selves in white puffy flesh that fell into creases be- 



56 TOWARDS MORNING 

neath the eyes that were so absurdly, horribly young. 
They fixed themselves at last on Helmut but Helmut 
felt they did not see him. "Oh, for God's sake — 
how does it go 



«< <■; 



'Die schonen Tagen von Aranjuez sind nun su 
ende ' '' 

His head went down into his hands again. 

Von Priitwitz shrugged his shoulders. 

"Poor old Schultz. He's in a bad way. He's afraid 
they won't give him his remove — ^and they won't 
either. He can't stand the grind here. One has to 
be tough — or — oh, well — ^time's up anyhow " 

Herr Heilig stood in the middle of the courtyard, 
and swung his bell. The little groups came together 
instantly, forming into double file. 

"I like himr said Hebnut "He's kind." 

"Oh, Heilig?" Von Priitwitz's tone was cold but 
respectful. "Yes, he's all right. He paints pictures. 
He just does this to help out. They say he's a social 
democrat or something mad like tiiat. But he's an 
artist so it doesn't matter. Come on, Schultz." 

The boy seated on the ground looked up. His lips 
were still moving soundlessly. He lurched to his feet, 
holding to his companion's arm. It seemed as though 
his legs were not strong enough to bear the swollen- 
looking head. 

''Die schonen Tagen von Aranjuez '' 

"Oh, God— how does it go then ?" 

"We've got to hurry," von Priitwitz retorted. 
"Never mind old Schiller." 

Helmut lingered. He was looking at the iron gates 
and at the green trees beyond. They lured him — 
tempted him. His heart beat in frantic tumult He 
couldn't go back — ^not into that dull cold class-room — 



TOWARDS MORNING 57 

not to that man who jeered at him — ^not to those piti- 
less, staring faces. He didn't want to learn — ^he 
wanted to go out into the woods and play with 
Schnautzchen — ^and be free. They said one couldn't 
be free. It wasn't true. He had been free. And 
freedom was out there — ^beyond the gates. Only one 
had to go now — ^now before they caught you 

A hand touched him and he almost screamed — so 
real had the shapeless "they" been to his imagination. 
It was only Schultz. He had come back. His pitiful 
face was quite close to Helmut's. But the eyes were 
no longer vague and unseeing. 

"No," he said quietly. "It's no good. They're 
locked. Always. They keep them locked. One can't 
get out— €ver." His voice dropped to a whisper. "I 
know — I've tried." 

The bell rang more urgently. They had to run to 
get into the school-house in time. 



IV 

There was no mystery about the door now. You 
rang a bell and some one upstairs pulled a lever at- 
tached to a strong wire and the door opened. The 
Geheimrat had been quite right about it 

There were no fairies. 

Helmut crept up the stairs, lingering on each step. 
The stairs were dark and in the darkness he was hid- 
den. He cowered away from the thought of light 
and of faces and people questioning him. Then they 
would find out that he made Kurt's nose bleed and 
that he was a half-wit 

His mother opened the door for him and there was 



S8 TOWARDS MORNING 

Schnautzchen lying on the mat, waiting. But 
Schnautzchen knew that to-day was different from 
other days. He did not bark or caper in a gallant 
travesty of youth. He followed heavily into the din- 
ing-room. 

"Well, Helmut?" He did not answer and she took 
ofif the bright yellow cap of the lower-fifth and ran 
her hand with a caress over the close-cropped head. 
'^Why — ^you're going to be a real man, Helmut." 

She helped him to unstrap the square knapsack and 
to unpack his books. There were ten of them and he 
laid diem out separately on the table and looked at 
them. He had got to take everything that was in- 
side those dull covers and squeeze it into his head. 
And his head ached now — as though it were pressed 
full to over-flowing. 

"Well— Helmut— can't you speak?" 

And suddenly he turned on her and there was a 
quavering note of hysteria in his boy's voice. 

"And shall I never play again. Mother?" 

For the moment they stared at each other. There 
was an aghast look on the woman's pale, dull face. 
She turned away as though there were something in 
his eyes that she could not meet. 

"You must be a man, Helmut," she said quietly. 
"Life isn't a game." 

So he knew that he was not to play again and soon 
he understood why. There was no time. Life was 
work. Work from eight o'clock in the morning till 
five o'clock at night. Work at home, trying to placate 
the contemptuous mocking of those lightless brown 
eyes. Work under the bed-clothes when the light was 
out, piecing together tags of half-digested knowledge. 



TOWARDS MORNING 59 

Piano lessons at the conscrvatorium on the one half- 
holiday. An hour's practice when an hour could be 
found. On Saturday night preparation for Pastor 
Kleister's Scripture class. 

It did not matter that every one in the town knew 
that Pastor Kleister believed neither in God nor devil. 
It did not make the chapter of the Old Testament (to 
be learnt by heart) one verse the less. 

At first he flung himself against the bars. "Why 
can't I play — why — why?" he asked. But after a 
little he ceased to question and in a little while again 
he forgot that he had ever played. 

He was ten when he found out that life wasn't a 
game. 

Fritz Schnautzchen waited patiently for his play- 
mate. But he never came. Aiid Schnautzchen grew 
very old 



CHAPTER IV 



But there was a feast day. On that day in the 
term the school closed. One did not play, it is true, 
but the grey monotony was broken with light and 
music. The tension tightened but now with a kind 
of fierce joyfulness. It was as though one had come 
suddenly quite near to the answer to all one's ques- 
tioning and that it was a glowing, fiery answer. 

The evening before, the Herr Oberlehrer gave them 
an address. Helmut had never seen him like that be- 
fore. There was a white heat about him — an inward 
illumination of the whole man which shone through 
the dull brown eyes and gave them splendid life. 

"To-morrow is a day on which you must reconsider 
yourselves, your position, your duty. You must fix 
in your mind the knowledge of the immense and glo- 
rious whole to which you belong — to which you must 
give ever)rthing — ^if need be — ^your life. Thereafter 
you will be better able to understand your task — ^to 
bend yourselves to it with a greater will " 

And Helmut knew then that there was a bond be- 
tween him and the man whom he hated which could 
never be broken. 

n 

There were flags out in the Kaiserstrasse — ^the yel- 
low and red of Baden — ^the red, white and black of 

60 



TOWARDS MORNING 6i 

the Empire. The streets sparkled with bright col- 
ours. The officers wore their gala uniforms — ^plumed 
helmets, short jackets with gold-braided collars, shin- 
ing high boots. The thrilling whisper of spurs and 
sabres played a soft accompaniment to the brazen 
chorus of the bands as they came at the head of their 
regiments — ^pouring into the town like shining rivers 
into a hke. 

Helmut and Schultz and Von Priitwitz met outside 
the latter's home — ^a high, violently ornate Etagenhaus 
in the Karlstrasse — ^and then ran as fast as their legs 
would carry them. They were very late. Schultz 
had arrived ten minutes after time. He had had a bad 
night, he said, and his head hurt 

"It's that beastly fourth prop. I can't get clear," 
he panted. 'T keep on doing it over and over again — 
in my mind." 

The Schlossplatz was black with crowds when they 
arrived. The people wedged in between the houses 
and the wall of troops could not lift their hands and 
at first it seemed a hopeless business. Then von 
Priitwitz recognised a brother-officer as he called him, 
a merry-faced youth who laughed and escorted them 
across the road to a perfect vantage point between two 
immense Grenadiers. Just behind them stood Herr 
Heilig, more scarecrowish than ever, his soft hat at a 
rakish angle, his hands plunged in the pockets of his 
velvet coat. 

They lifted their yellow caps solemnly, and he nod- 
ded back to them, smiling. 

'Good morning, children— come to see the show?" 
'Jawohl, Herr Heilig !" they answered in chorus. 

But there was something about his smile that they 
did not understand. 






62 TOWARDS MORNING 

It was quite still now. The bands were silent The 
troops in their places. Everywhere you looked you 
saw the flash of steel. In front of the Schloss stood 
the Commanding General of the District. You picked 
him out from the midst of a glittering staff by the red 
Revets of his grey overcoat. 

The hush deepened. It was as though every one 
in that vast concourse held their breath. Then a 
deep rasping voice broke upon the stillness. 

"Seine Kaiserliche Majestdt — er lebe, hoch!" 

From ten thousand men's throats came the answer. 

''Hoch! Hoch! Hochr 

Each cheer fell short and hard like a great blow. 

The massed bands clashed out together. 

"Heil dir im Siegenkranz '* 

The Grenadier regiment swung out of its square — 
ten deep they poured past the saluting base — ^parade 
step — ^their officers with lowered swords at the head of 
each company — ^they came on like rolling thunder — 
like a torrent. They were not men — ^not soldiers. 
They were one body moving at the behest of one mind 
— 2l body elemental and monstrous and human and a 
mind of a soulless, terrible god. 

They shook the earth under their feet 

Helmut clenched his hands. The tears stung his 
eyes. Shock after shock of strange, delirious excite- 
ment, half joy, half terror, ran through his nerves. 
He could have screamed, and his body was wet with 
perspiration. He looked up suddenly, for Herr Heilig 
had taken a step forward. He was leaning over Hel- 
mut, his face red and swollen with a rush of blood. 
His eyes, staring from under knit brows, dropped al- 
most instantly to answer the boy's gaze and their hard- 
ness broke, letting through the old humour. But it 



TOWARDS MORNING 63 

had become a trifle wry — sl trifle bitter. He shook 
himself like a big dog. 

"The Juggernaut makes us dance, doesn't it, Hel- 
mut?" he said. "And one day we shall throw our- 
selves under the wheels — ^singing " 

Helmut did not tmderstand. He had never heard of 
a Juggernaut At that moment Schultz jogged at 
his elbow. 

"Look at the bayonets — ^they shine like — ^like 
needles. H one stuck them into a man's body do you 
think it would hurt? I mean, badly, like my head, or 
would it kill at once? One could twist it round in 
the wound, like this, and then " 

He made a gesture. He was strangely, horribly 
excited. 

m 

It was over. The great black crowd broke up into 
particles that meandered peacefully homeward or 
straggled into the cafes and tempting Conditoreis. The 
three boys scarcely spoke. Even cakes, piled high with 
cream, could not rouse them from the queer tired- 
ness which had come over them. They dragged their 
feet They could easily have quarrelled. It was as 
though they had been worked up and up to a crisis 
and that the crisis had not come. A circle had not 
been completed. Something had been withheld. They 
did not know what it was, but the lack of it made them 
morose and nervous. 

At the top of the Karlstrasse they met another 
cortege. It was led by three students on horseback. 
They were clad in mediaeval costume with ostrich 
plumed caps, thigh boots and velvet coats. They car- 



64 TOWARDS MORNING 

ried drawn swords and the colours of their order. 
Behind them came a stream of carriages filled with 
students and more carriages still, packed with old gen- 
tlemen wearing the tri-colour ribbon across their 
breasts and the gay cap of their youth on their grey 
heads. 

Then three more riders bearing other colours and 
more carriages. 

"The Corps and Burschenschaf ten hold their Kaiser 
Komers together to-night," Schultz said. "I was to 
have gone. My father's an alte Herr of the Friesens. 
But I can't get my work done '* 

"There's my father!" cried Helmut suddenly. 
"There — ^in the third carriage — ^now — ^he's look- 
mg 

It was the Herr Amtschreiber right enough. He 
sat very grave and upright between two old gentle- 
men, his cap a little over one ear, his coat thrown 
open to show the ribbon. As he saw the three chil- 
dren standing on the curb he lifted his cap with a 
flourish and they lifted theirs respectfully. 

Never had the Herr Amtschreiber seemed so bright 
and clear and definite. 

"My father was third Qiargierter when he was ac- 
tive," Helmut said breathlessly. "He's got a cut right 
across the head — from his first Mensur — ^he showed it 
to me " 

"Students are all right," von Prutwitz observed dis 
passionately — "especially if they're in a good corps. 
Even a Burschenschaft can be pretty decent, I believe. 
But they go into business or an office afterwards. 
It's not like being an officer " 

The little glow of glory went out. 

"Oh, no, of course not," said Helmut sighing. 



TOWARDS MORNING 65 

Schultz gave a queer laugh. 

"Do you know, I don't believe I shall be either/* 
he muttered 

IV 

The glory came again that night Helmut sat with 
his mother on the raised dais and looked over the 
huge Fest-Halle. The uniforms of the students who 
moved hither and thither among the long tables danced 
before his eyes like the colours of a kaleidoscope. The 
chink of beer glasses and the hum of voices wove 
themselves into a hunting symphony which died away 
when the band struck up and a swinging student's 
song thundered exuberantly to the rafters. 

Helmut joined in too, holding tightly to his song- 
book. 

"Gai4deafnus Igitur '* 



He did not know what it meant But it made him 
so happy that he could have cried. He forgot all 
the lessons that he had left behind and that he would 
never, never imderstand. Everything was lost in fire 
and colour. He looked up into his mother's face, 
smiling. Frau Felde, very red and earnest, sang with 
all her might. 

At the cross table at the head of the hall sat the 
first Chargierten of all the Corps and Burschenschaf- 
ten, a prince from the reigning house, old generals 
in full uniform. And there at one of the side tables 
was the Herr Amtschreiber. He sat among all the 
young men and drank with them and laughed with 
them. When he saw Helmut and his mother he waved 
his cap and lifted his glass. 

'Trositr 



66 TOWARDS MORNING 

And Frau Felde lifted her glass and drank back and 
laughed. 

'Trositr 

She too seemed to have grown more vivid, as though 
life in her had suddenly begun to bum strong and 
dear. 

"Silentiumr 

And it was so still that Helmut thought he heard 
his own heart beating. The first Chargierter of the 
presiding Corps stood up in his place, his drawn sword 
lying on the table. At first Helmut could not hear 
what he said, but as his young voice accustomed it- 
self to the vast hall, the words rang out sharp and 
passionate. 

" but it's not the man only we honour. Bound 

as we are to him by personal oath — by a personal al- 
legiance which has its root in the most splendid hour 
of our history, we yet know that it is not that alone 
which holds us^-claims our endeavour — our life. It 
is not the Emperor as man, but the Emperor as 
Germany who commands us. And who is Grermany? 
He is our father. We are his sons. Each one of us — 
the least and the greatest — ^bears the glorious burden 
of sonship on his shoulders. But the Emperor bears 
the greatest burden of all: He is the chosen heir. 
He leads us forward — ^across the seas to new lands, 
new victories. When the smouldering envy and hatred 
of effete peoples burst into flame he will lead us over 
them till they are trampled into ashes. We shall carry 
our banners over the world. 

"For that hour we live. We are one people. The 
old individualism is dead. We no longer live for our- 
selves, for our families, for our city or our provino 
we live for Germany. We have no other life." 



TOWARDS MORNING 67 

He stopped suddenly. There was no sound. "Gen- 
tlemen, I call upon you to rub a salamander in honour 
of our Emperor " 

They rose to their feet like one man. 

The glasses were raised high and emptied to the 
dregs. 

"Zweir 

They were lowered swiftly. 

^^Eins, zwei, drei!" 

The glasses rumbled on the table with the noise of 
thunder. 

The band caught up on the last crash. 

'^Germany — Germany before all!'' 

And Helmut sang as though his life depended on 
their hearing his shrill young voice. His heart grew 
big and hot within him. He saw the Herr Amtschrei- 
ber and that he was singing too, holding himself 
straight and fine like a soldier. 

"Even Priitwitz would know we were all right if 
he could see us now/' Helmut thought. 

And presently the Herr Amtschreiber came up on 
to the platform. He carried little bunches of flowers 
—one for every lady invited by his Verbindung. The 
best of all he kept for the Geheimratin. He made 
her a deep bow, with his hand on his heart and every 
one laughed. They had never seen him so gallant — 
so daring. 

For a moment he stood at Helmut's side, blinking 
over his glasses. 

"That was beautiful — ^beautiful, wasn't it?" he said 
softly. "In such a moment one understands why one 
is alive " 



68 TOWARDS MORNING 



It was not like sleep. There was no sweet sinking 
into forgetfulness. He could not close his eyes, try- 
as he would. He could not turn them away. The 
pageant went on and on — cavalry and foot, generals 
on horseback, brave banners and tossing plumes, riv- 
ers of steel — brazen music, thunder of voices — ^all pass- 
ing from darkness into light and into darkness again. 

He kept on saying : 

"I'm so tired. Can't I go to sleep ever?" 

And his father answered: 

" Now we understand why we are alive, little 

Helmut." 

In reality Helmut was fast asleep. He did not hear 
Frau Felde open the front door. He did not hear the 
Herr Amtschreiber drag his feet along the passage. 
And the Herr Amtschreiber was not trying to move 
quietly. He did not care who heard him. He cared 
neither for God nor man. His battered student's cap 
was at the back of his head, faded bunches of flowers 
in his button hole — ^sticking out of his pockets. He 
went shuffling along into the sitting-room, singing 
under his breath — leaving a trail of smoke and wine 
fumes behind him. 

"You are mad, my child — 

You must go to Berlin. 

That's where the lunatics come from." 

sang the Herr Amtschreiber. 

Frau Felde closed the door in an agony of fear. 

"Oh, Hermann — ^if any one heard you — ^if any one 
saw you " 






TOWARDS MORNING 69 

He laughed and flung up his arms. 

"Who cares? I — I've had a g-gcx)d time. Jolly 
f-fellows — all sorts of jolly — fellows — no nonsense 
about them — said I was a jolly fine fellow too a — 
a real German — ^we're to wipe up the world between 
us — French and English and Russian — dirty monkeys 
the lot of them — ^just wipe them up — I — ^like that " 

The little Herr Amtschreiber made a sweeping ges- 
ture that nearly carried him off his feet 

'Oh, Hermann — for God's sake " 

'Well — ^w-what's the matter? What you crjring 
for? I'm — drunk. Of course I'm drunk. W-what 
do you think I'm drunk for? I'm drunk to be free — 
to do what I like — ^I'd push in my Herr Bureau-Chef's 
ugly face if he was here — ^I'd spit in his eye — ^that's 
w-what I'm dnmk for — not so much of tiiis damn 
fear of everything 

"We Germans fear G-God and nothing else — ^we're 
supermen — ^blond beasts — and we can't smack a man's 
face " 

The Herr Amtschreiber lurched and then was sick, 
pitifully, helplessly sick. 

' She said nothing. She helped him into his chair 
before the fire and fetched hot water and bathed his 
hands and face and the soiled waistcoat. He was 
quiet now— drowsy as an exhausted child. He had 
lost his glasses and his round, short-sighted blue eyes 
blinked wistfully at her. 

"You — ^you won't let me be late for office, Clar- 
chen?" 

"No— of course not. It would never do." 

He fell asleep instantly. 

She sat beside him, her hand on his, upright, ex- 
pressionless* waiting for the grey morning. 



CHAPTER V 



It rained so that the black mourning pines that 
shadowed the Gasthaus zur Hundseck on three sides 
were just a memoiy. The drenching mist rolled be- 
tween, white and soundless, muffling the rare foot- 
step, the very drip of the water-laden branches to an 
intangible whisper. Sometimes it lightened — ^as though 
behind it some one were moving about with a lantern, 
searching for shelter — ^then darkened again hopelessly. 

A little group of people stood in the porch and drank 
their after-lunch coffee and were facetiously pessimis- 
tic after the manner of their race. 

* 

"This is nothing to what it can do," one of the men 
declared, "and moreover it can go on doing it for 
days and nights together." 

"To think we left England for this!" a feminine 
voice answered. "An English drizzle is hope com- 
pared with it." 

"Do you believe that out over there are valleys and 
mountains and more motmtains — right to the end of 
the world?" 

"No, I don't. I believe there is an abyss and if I 
took three steps forward I should fall straight into 
it" 

"How deadly quiet — ^and boring. What on earth 
are we to do with ourselves ?" 

Some one yawned. 

70 



TOWARDS MORNING 71 

"Might hire a conveyance and run down to Baden- 
Baden and make a night of it" 

"It won't be much of a run — three hours' tug." 

"Who cares? Better than sitting here — Fm damp 
to the skin already." 

"What's that? Something's coming — ^look— over 
there?" 

They laughed at the mock excitement, but were 
bored enough to turn in the direction which the girl 
indicated. Some one was actually coming — more than 
just "some one." The subdued shuffling of many feet 
reached them long before the mist broke into shadows 
that came pouring in ghostly procession to the doors 
of the Gasthaus. 

"What on earth are they? Gnomes? There are 
gnomes in the Black Forest. Cook's swore there were." 

"Moving toadstools." 

"Oh, hush! We mustn't laugh — ^if they're gnomes 
it might annoy them." 

A waiter, collecting coffee-cups, offered obsequious 
explanation. 

"The three lower classes from the Karlstadt Gym- 
nasium, on their yearly holiday," he said. 

"School-boys? And so solemn 1 And those funny 
caps " 

"Only Germans could think of caps like that." 

"Can you imagine English boys carrying umbrel- 
las?" 

The under-fifth gazed stolidly at the foreigners. 
Their round young faces were expressionless and yet 
their expressionlessness conveyed a dull dislike and dis- 
trust. Some one hidden in the mist shouted an order 
and the umbrellas were lowered and stacked like rifles. 
The children stood motionless and silent in double file. 



'JT, TOWARDS MORNING 

"Good Lord — ^young Germany and no mistake!" 

"TheyVe not children. They can't be. They're 
little old men.'* 

The girl who had first seen the new arrivals pressed 
her companion's arm. 

"Hush ! They may understand. They look so wise 
— as though they knew everything — and — ^and so pa- 
thetic." 

The Herr Oberlehrer Schafer loomed out of the mist 
with Herr Heilig at his heels. His face was set and 
dark and he pushed through the little knot of strangers 
insolently — ^as though he had not seen them. But he 
had heard them. He heard a man's voice remark 
behind him : 

"Well — ^they don't teach manners at that school any- 
how." 

"Of course not They'd think it effeminate." 

The Herr Oberlehrer turned to his companion. 

"Damned English pigs ! What do they want here ? 
Why do they come.** They contaminate our forests 
as diey contaminate our national life. They brought 
their filthy vices to Baden-Baden. Isn't that enough? 
Have we got to put up with their infernal insolent 
patronage and laughter even in our holy of holies!" 

He spoke loudly. His rasping voice reached the 
silent children who stood stiffly at the long tables, 
awaiting their orders. Heilig shook the rain off his 
long Loden overcoat. 

"The English are a critical race," he observed coolly, 
"and they have an immense sense of humour. They 
can't help seeing the comic in everything." 

"You call that a sense of humour? To laugh at 
sacred things? The English would laugh at Christ 



TOWARDS MORNING n 

on the crucifix. Or perhaps you would excuse 
that?" 

"Certainly not In the meantime they have only 
laughed at us. And perhaps we are funny. I often 
think so myself.'' 

"A German who makes a jest of his country is a 
traitor." 

Heilig rubbed his untidy beard and twinkled good- 
humouredly. 

"Hadn't we better begin, Herr Oberlehrer? The 
coffee will be getting cold." 

His superior made no answer. He sat down with 
a peremptory gesture which opened forty neat little 
parcels and set forty hungry mouths to work. The 
children ate almost in silence, with rare gusts of whis- 
perings and irrepressible boyish scufHings. And after 
each gust they threw sidelong glances at the two men 
at the head of the table. They looked at the Herr 
Oberlehrer with fear but at Herr Heilig with dis- 
trust — with unchildish disapproval. He was a traitor. 
The Oberlehrer had said as much. A traitor — ^a man 
who could laugh at sacred things — at Germany 

They could hear the English voices in the corridor 
outside— calling instructions — laughing. The place 
might have belonged to them. The Herr Oberlehrer 
sat back, his fists clenched on the table. 

"Come, children, we will give these English a song 
before we go — ^a German song — ^we will show them 
that German boys aren't afraid of rain— or of them 
of anything on earth — 



^awohl, Herr Oberlehrer!" they shouted. 

They sang the 'Wacht am Rhein," and "Deutsch- 
land-Deutschland iiber alles." Their eyes fixed on the 
man's dark and bitter face they sang shrilly, trucu- 



74 TOWARDS MORNING 

lently. The songs of defence and love rang with ag- 
gression and hate. It was as though they drew venom 
from some secret source. 

The Oberlehrer conducted with his clenched fist 

"How jolly it sounds," the English girl said as she 
stepped into the closed carriage. "The Germans are 
so musical " 

Five minutes later just as liie Baden-Baden expedi- 
tion started on its way the under-fifth came pouring 
out of the Gasthaus. Discipline had been relaxed. 
They straggled across the road, they eddied uncer- 
tainly round the slowly moving carriage, peering in at 
the windows. 

Suddenly Kurt Kohler jabbed his umbrella savagely 
at the girl seated in the far comer. The man next her 
laughed and catching hold of the umbrella-point gave 
the aggressor a playful poke which sent him tumbling 
back from the step into the silent, unlaughing crowd. 
'Mischievous young devil!" 

'Well. I'm glad there is a bit of fun in them !" the 
girl said "Did you see that boy standing on the bank 
— such a pretty little fellow — ^and so serious. Do you 
think they ever laugh ?" 

"Perhaps it's verhoten'' her companion suggested. 
"At any rate they're allowed to cry." 

From the distance came the sotmd of Kurt Kohler 
howling dolefully. 



n 



The three boys had climbed to the highest point 
of the moimtain where a half -ruined Roman tower 
kept watch over the Rhine valley. It was still rain- 



"] 



TOWARDS MORNING 75 

ing. They crq)t into the shelter of a broken archway 
and huddled together from the driving mist. 

Von Priitwitz commanded their adventure. He al- 
ways commanded. No one quite understood why he 
accepted the companionship of the two dullest chil- 
dren in the school. It was partly perhaps because they 
accepted him so simply — so reverently. He was their 
bright and steadfast star — ^the one firm rock in their 
small tottering universe. And he was not domineer- 
ing or cruel— only radiantly self-assured. He was not 
even afraid of tihe masters. 

He was going to be an officer, and compared to him 
school-masters were small fry. 

Helmut, who had not eaten all his dinner, divided 
out the remnants, and they munched for a little while 
in silence. The enveloping mist gave them a thrilling 
sense of mystery and loneliness. Schultz pointed down 
into the twisting, wreathing clouds of smoke and his 
hand trembled. 

"Anything — ^anything might come up out of that!" 
he whispered. 

"Fairies !" said Helmut, "the bad ones " 

"Or the English," von Priitwitz caught up a broken 
branch and set it to his shoulder like a rifle. "Let's 
pretend they're trying to storm our castle. There they 
come — ^up the hill. Aha, you see that fine fellow? 
Bang! There — ^head-over-heels ! Dead as a door- 
nail !" 

"I hate the English," said Helmut solemnly. 

Von Priitwitz picked off another assailant. 

"So do I — ^professionally. One can't fight if one 
doesn't hate. And as we're going to fight them we 
can't start hating them too soon. But they're rather 
decent fellows, I believe. My uncle admires them 



76 TOWARDS MORNING 

frightfully. It'll be a ripping war if only it doesn't 
come off before I'm grown up." 

"Anyhow I couldn't help being pleased when they 
poked Kurt in the chest — ^he's such a beast. All the 
masters like him. At home they're always telling him 
how clever and splendid he is. They're ashamed of 



me. 



«i 



'Kurt cheats," Schultz muttered. "I've seen him." 

Von Priitwitz shrugged his shoulders. 

"Everybody knows. The masters know. They 
think it's rather smart. But it's silly to cheat. It's 
pretending you know something you don't know. 
Sooner or later you're bound to be found out, and the 
later it is the worse it is. Supposing I pretend I 
know how to aim a gun and always get the calcula- 
tions from some one else. Then when the war comes 
I try to blow up an English battery and hit our first 
line trenches instead. It's idiotic. You've got to know 
to be efficient, or you're no good to anybody." 

There was a silence. Schultz sat with his white 
face between his hands staring down at an ant-heap 
among the pine-needles. The ceaseless, passionate 
hurrying of its inmates seemed to exercise a strange 
fascination over him. 

"I never know," he said at last "I never know 
anything. I don't know why it is. A thing looks 
easy enough at first, and then when I try to do it, it 
sort of slips away. I can't get hold of it, and my head 
hurts as though it were too full, and the stuff was 
trying to burst out of my ears." 

"And I think I know until I get into class," Hel- 
mut said, "and then when Sheepshanks looks at me 
it — it just goes. Sometimes I wish he would kill me, 
and then it would be over." 



TOWARDS MORNING 77 

Schultz nodded gravely. 

"Yes — then it would be over." 

He had discovered a large party of ants at some 
distance from their ant-heap. They were trying to 
carry a twig several hundred times larger than them- 
selves. Schultz dug a deep trench round them with 
his forefinger. 

"You oughtn't to be frightened/' von Priitwitz said, 
still busy with his invisible Englishmen, "Germans are 
not afraid of any one except God — ^that's what Bis- 
marck said." 

"Who is God?" 

They were silent again. It was as though the sud- 
den question touched something vital in all three of 
them. Von Priitwitz let his rifle drop. 

"I don't know. I don't believe any one does. Of 
course there's nothing in all that Bible stuff. No one 
believes in that now — not even old Kleister. He hardly 
pretends to. He has to stick to his screw like every 
one else. He knows it's all a fairy story. He said as 
much." 

"You mean, he doesn't believe in God— or — or in 
Christ?" 

Von Priitwitz lifted his proud young head with a 
laugh. 

"Why, he hates Christ! You can hear it in his 
voice. He hates all that talk about humanity and 
forgiveness and submission. And he's right too. It's 
all rot and himibug. We aren't humble — ^and humility 
is sickly anyhow — and we forgive just as much or as 
little as we feel inclined. And submission is cowardly. 
No man who is a man submits unless he's got to. We 
despise men who give in. You look round you and 
you'll see that's true. It's been two thousand years of 



78 TOWARDS MORNING 

humbug. And some of us have got to go on pretending 
because it's an easy way of making a living — ^like 
Kleister. But even Kleister only sticks to it by pre- 
tending Christ is Siegfried and God Wotan — good old 
fighting German Gods! When he talks of them he 
warms up. You feel he means something." 

'It's no good my praying to Wotan," said Schultz 
under his breath. "Only the great warriors go to 
Valhalla." 

"Don't you believe in anything, Priitwitz?" Hel- 
mut asked shyly. 

The boy did not answer for a minute. 

"I'm not certain yet. One has to work these things 
out for oneself or it's no good. I think about it though, 
and one day I shall make up my mind. Perhaps it's 
as some people say: God is just everything, what 
we call life — the trees and animals — the earth — ^and 
us. Where we're sitting now, perhaps some German 
died thousands of years ago. Perhaps this handful 
of dirt is — is him. When I am buried on a battle- 
field I shall become dust Uke that too. Perhaps that's 
being immortal. So when we are fighting for our 
country, it's fighting for God — our God." 

"Then there are ever so many gods in the world?" 

"Our God is the greatest," Priitwitz answered. "We 
must make him God of gods." 

A gust of wind shook the invisible pine-trees so that 
they sighed sadly among themselves. The mist eddied 
and swayed and suddenly thinned like a worn and 
tattered shroud. And through the jagged rent they 
looked down upon a world of valley and mountain 
lying in a pale flood of sunshine. The valley shone 
like an emerald snake between the dark mountains 
that rolled on and on till they met the clouds. 



TOWARDS MORNING 79 

And Heinrich von Priitwitz leapt up and tossed his 
cap into the air. 

"Long live our dear Lord God !" he shouted. "Long 
life to Him r 

His shrill boy's voice echoed through the muffled 
silence. He stood with his arms stretched above his 
head in exultant salutation. 

But his companions huddled close together. 

"I don't think I want to believe in God," Helmut 
brooded. "It's no good having a God one hates. And 
God must be a beast He made people like old Sheep- 
shanks !" 

"Cruel people," said Schultz dully. "People who 
laugh at you so that you want to kill them — ^hurt them ; 
and ugly, stupid people — ^like me — ^who never wanted 
to be bom." 

"Perhaps there isn't a God at all," Helmut con- 
soled. 

"Then it doesn't matter what happens," Schultz 
answered. "It doesn't matter what one does — it's just 
a handful of earth." 

"German earth," Priitwitz cried out "That mat- 
ters!" 

But the vision was already fading. A dense steamy 
cloud rolled up over the opposite moimtains. It came 
on irresistibly, menacingly, like a charge of cavalry, 
its wet chill breath dimming the rain-washed colours 
of the valley. Its shadow raced up the slopes. Sud- 
denly the light went out 

"Look!" said Schultz under his breath. "Look 
here." 

They bent over his shoulder, looking at what he 
indicated. Von Priitwitz laughed. 



8o TOWARDS MORNING 

"They've done you! You didn't dig deep enough, 
duflFer!" 

Schultz shook his head The bewildered ants, cut 
off from their retreat, began to pour over the edge 
of the trench. They tumbled in, one after anodier, 
and little by little they filled it. Their brown, insig- 
nificant bodies filled it to the brink. The remainder, 
carrying their twig, passed over. 

"One can learn something from those beggars," 
von Prutwitz declared admiringly. "They've got the 
right spirit" 

But still Schultz pointed with his stubby mis-shapen 
finger. 

"We're like that," he whispered. "Just like that 
And I'm God and I sit here and watch — ^and watch — 
and laugh — and " 

Suddenly he sprang up and stamped upon the little 
moving, busy world — stamped upon it till it lay flat 
and still. "I — I'm just like God," he gasped out 

The mist closed in. It whirled about them. The 
valleys and mountains had passed away. The rain 
swept down in a blinding curtain. 

And Schultz lay with his face in the earth and wept 



CHAPTER VI 



For two months it had not rained Day after day 
the sun went down like a fever-spot, and at night the 
panting town folk threw open their shutters, trying 
to catch some vagrant breeze from the brief dark- 
ness. At four o'clock the sun shewed a brazen rim 
above the horizon. The little freshness was burnt 
up like a drop of water on a sheet of white hot metal. 

In the Gymnasiimi there had been rumours of "heat 
holidays." The children were quarrelsome, listless, 
and irritable by turns. But the State had lately given 
a fresh twist to the educational screw. There were 
so many competitors for the posts it had to oflfer — 
it could take its choice from the best brains in the coun- 
try. It lifted the examination bar a Uttle higher, and 
the Herr Oberlehrer Schafer drove his charges to the 
jump. 

So the rumours of the heat holiday grew fainter. 
The children were liable to turn savagely on each other 
at the mention of them. 

"German boys can put up with heat and cold," the 
Herr Oberlehrer said in his hard, colourless voice. "In 
England, half the year is given over to holidays be- 
cause the English are an idle and effete nation. They 
have no strength to endure. They are sunk in lux- 
ury, they batten on the glory of their fore-fathers. 
But we Germans are a Spartan people, we know how 

81 



82 TOWARDS MORNING 

to suffer. We steel our muscles day by day for the 
final issue. If there is weakness amongst us, it must 
be rooted out pitilessly." His own lips were cracked 
with fever. Though they hated him, they knew that 
he too was driven. In the darkened school-room they 
stirred to a patient answering activity. "Now — ^we 
are at the beginning of the Seven Years War. Karl 
Schultz, will you be kind enough to give me your 
idea of Germany at the beginning of this epoch ?" 

It was very quiet again. The little scuffling move- 
ment died away, and in the stillness they could almost 
hear the hot droning of the insects in the neighbour- 
ing forest. The Herr Oberlehrer repeated his sum- 
mons, and slowly, painfully, Schultz dragged himself 
to his feet. But he said nothing. He stood in the 
midst of his watching companions like a stump little 
tree amidst a pale undergrowth. His face was turned 
to the light that sickered through the closed shut- 
ters. It looked mis-shapen and swollen — ^and over- 
white. There was something grotesque about it — ^the 
half-comic, half-sinister semblance to a human face 
that the moon shows when it is full. 

**Well, and how long do you require to gather your 
great thoughts, Schultz?'^ 

The boy's mouth dropped open. He turned stupidly 
in the direction of the voice. 

"Frederick the Great — Frederick the Great " 

"That's very interesting. It appears that Schultz 
has heard of some one called Frederick the Great. 
Go on." 

"Frederick the Great was so fond of big soldiers — 
whenever he saw any one tall — ^he had him stolen — 
so every one stooped whenever they came near " 

A gust of exasperated laughter bowed the lifted 



TOWARDS MORNING 83 

heads. The Herr Oberlehrer leant forward over his 
desk. His voice no longer feigned an ironic suavity, 
it sounded shrill and rasping like the grinding of one 
metal upon another. 

"Are you making fun of me by any chance?" 

"Frederick the Great came to the throne " 

"Stop that gabble. Answer my question. Have 
you or have you not prepared your work?" 

The child made a blind, fumbling movement with 
his queer mis-shapen hands that seemed to appeal to 



some one unseen. 



My head hurts, Herr Oberlehrer — ^my head hurts 
always. I can't think about an3rthing else." 

They stared at him aghast. There was hysteria in 
the atmosphere — a feeling of splitting nerves. Some 
one dropped a pencil-box and the class winced as 
though under the cut of a whip. 

"Try not to whine, Schultz, I dislike whining. Your 
headache does not interest me, and this isn't a girls' 
school. Either you did or did not learn your 
lesson " 

"I tried, Herr Oberlehrer — I tried — ^but I can't do 
it — I can't really — ^it hurts — it hurts so." 

*'You young humbug! The truth is you are the 
biggest loafer in the class. You're a stumbling block 
to the real workers, and I shall make an example of 
you. In the meantime you will stand there until your 
memory chooses to exert itself. Let there be abso- 
lute silence whilst our delicate young friend gathers 
his aching wits together." 

They let their tension slip for an instant in a titter 
which died away like a feverish breath of wind. Then 
they were still again. Some of them gazed pitilessly 



84 TOWARDS MORNING 

at the lonely figure in their midst, others had their 
faces hidden. 

Helmut could not bear to look, and yet again and 
again his eyes were drawn against his will. His heart 
seemed to be beating all over him. He could almost 
hear the thick throb of his pulses. The air throbbed 
with them. He knew what it was to stand like that — 
alone, no one helping, no one caring, one's brains and 
limbs frozen with shame and terror. He knew it so 
well that his soul seemed to be deserting him — ^to be 
creeping into Schultz's body — ^to be seeing through 
his eyes, sweating in his agony. When he looked up 
he saw himself standing there, crushed and stupefied 
under the growing burden of silence. 

If only some one cared — did something. 

And suddenly Helmut leant forward and pushed 
his notes into one of the limp, hanging hands. Even 
then he knew that it was of no good — that it was 
obvious and stupid. The crackling of the paper filled 
the room with outrageous sound. Schultz turned 
stupidly, but a faint light had broken over his whole 
face. 

Then he let the papers slip. 

The Herr Oberlehrer came swiftly down from his 
rostrum, it was like the swoop of some big, murder- 
ous bird. He stood over the two boys, and for a 
moment Helmut almost thought he was smiling, his 
eyes were so bright, and his teeth shewed beneath the 
updrawn lips. 

"You climisy young cheats! You little fools! Do 
you really think you can play a stupid trick like that 
on me? A pair of good-for-nothings. Well, I have 
finished with you this time. I will not have you in 
this class or in this school. You contaminate it, and 



TOWARDS MORNING 85 

I shall see to it that you are removed to the idiot 
asylum where you belong. Get out of here — into the 
courtyard — ^and cool your heads for a little. My dog 
will keep you company, and keep you quiet till I 
come. No— leave your books, you will not want 
them again here." 

They crept out from their desks as though their 
legs were hardly strong enough to carry them. It was 
such a long way to the door. They were so small 
and the room was so big. 

And Helmut stumbled as he had stumbled once be- 
fore, and this time the Herr Oberlehrer leant forward 
and struck him savagely across the round blond head. 



n 

"He had no right to do that ! No right. It's for- 
bidden. I shall complain to my father. I shall tell 
everybody. He will be sent away and everything will 
be different He had no right." 

He did not know that he was crying. The tears 
rolled unheeded down his hot red cheeks. He held 
his small sturdy figure squarely, defiantly, but his lips 
and nostrils were quivering. "He had no right," he 
repeated over and over again. 

Schultz did not answer. He was calm — stolidly 
calm and aloof, as though what had happened did not 
concern him. The heavy-lidded eyes were half-closed, 
and his abnormal head swayed sleepily on his shoul- 
ders. And gradually the silence choked his compan- 
ion's bo)rish fury. Pain and humiliation ceased to 
spur him. He was like a young horse that has flung 
its rider, and after a headlong gallop stands panting 



86 TOWARDS MORNING 

and quivering, awaiting retribution. "What does it 
mean to be expelled?" he asked unsteadily. "I sup- 
pose he can expel us — ^just because we're stupid and 
can't get on. But what does it mean?" Schultz re- 
mained silent, apparently he had not heard, there was 
something intent about him as though he were follow- 
ing up a definite rather amusing thought. "They can't 
kill you just because you can't do lessons, can they?" 
Helmut persisted. "One hasn't got to die because 
one's stupid? But if one doesn't pass one's exam — 
but then I've never known any one who failed — per- 
haps one doesn't hear of them." 

He stopped, overwhelmed by a rush of vague, ter- 
rible fears. He did not know what they were, but 
they had to do with his father and mother who were 
always watching — ^always waiting for something, 
with the Geheimrat, whose approval mattered so much 
more than anything else, with Kurt, who would be tri- 
umphant, with the Geheimratin, who would say: 
"That's just what I expected." Above all, they had 
to do with the world that loomed up behind these 
figures — 2i world that had no use for failures. 

But then what happened? Or were Schultz and 
he the only boys that ever failed — ^lonely, horrible 
abnormalities ? 

The full mid-day sunlight poured down into the 
courtyard, and the air shimmered with parched, suf- 
focating heat The pavement burnt under foot 
From the shuttered windows of the school-house came 
the drone of children's voices, but outside the gates 
it was still as death, even the hum of insects had 
dropped to an exhausted, quiescent silence. 

The two children stood helplessly in the glare of 
the sun. They dared not go in to fetch their caps, 



TOWARDS MORNING 87 

and there was no shade except where the one tree threw 
its branches over the wall. And in that little square 
of shadow lay the Herr Oberlehrer's Teufel, watch- 
ing them, its lolling tongue a spot of bright colour 
in the bleached monotony. 

It was with a purpose that the Herr Oberlehrer had 
spoken of him. He knew — and was pleased to know 
— ^that next to himself his dog was the most feared 
being in the school. An ill-conditioned cur at best, 
in the playground where it would occasionally appear, 
it seemed to take to itself something of its master's 
temper. It would attack without provocation— cruelly, 
effectually, and to strike it or kick it off was beyond 
the courage of the bravest For the Herr Oberlehrer 
loved the animal. With Teufel he could be gentle, 
caressing, and even playful. It was as though the 
savage pitiless nature awoke in him a difficult respect. 
If only we could run away," Helmut muttered — 
somewhere where they would never find us." 

A wave of physical sickness swept up from the pit 
of his stomach, and he had to clench his teeth to keep 
it back. His head buzzed as though every drop of 
blood in him had a little voice, and a yellow, foetid 
smelling mist swam before his eyes. 

For the first time Schultz was speaking. 

"Hullo, Teufel — ^nice dog, nice dog, Teufel." 

He crouched down, patting the ground, the other 
hand with a lump of meat between the crooked fingers, 
temptingly extended. "Come on, Teufel, good dog. 

Helmut forgot fear and sickness. 

"Why, / wouldn't give him anything — the beast! 

The voice continued its sing-song reiteration. 
Come on, Teufel, good dog." 
Fancy you're wanting to feed him." 



it 



99 






88 TOWARDS MORNING 

Schultz called softly. A feverish purpose was in 
his voice, in every movement. It lent him a strange 
forcefulness — ^almost a dignity. Suddenly Helmut 
became afraid of him. 

The dog lifted his head. He too seemed aware of 
something unusual. He rose, yawned and stretched 
himself, and came nearer, sullen, reluctant but com- 
pelled. He sniffed at the outstretched hand, shewing 
his ugly fangs. 

"Good dog, Teufel." 

The boy and the dog eyed each other, challenge 
might have passed between them. Viciously the ani- 
mal snapped the meat from the steady hand and gulped 
at it 

"I'd have killed him first," Helmut stammered. 

Schultz smiled vaguely. He got up, still watching 
the dog, which had fallen into an abrupt immo- 
bility, its jaws hung open, and there was a look of 
puzzlement— of comic incredulity on its ugly face. 

Then it began to cough. At first it was just an 
ordinary cough — but it persisted. Presently the dog 
lay down, worrying at its muzzle with its paws, roll- 
ing over, twisting to the accompaniment of the gasp- 
ing, suffocating whine. It grew louder, piercing, it 
was like the cry of a human being, tortured out of 
human semblance. Suddenly, as though galvanised, 
the dog leapt up on its hind legs, pawing the air. 

At first Helmut had laughed. It had been funny 
to see the dreaded tyrant rolling and twisting like a 
harmless puppy, now it was terrible. It looked at 
Helmut — the thing he had hated looked at him with 
SchnSutzchen's eyes — ^brown eyes, full of pathetic, 
piteous questioning. 

"Karl— what is it? What's the matter?" 



TOWARDS MORNING 89 

But still Schultz did not answer. His white face 
was blank. He stood passive, his hands thrust in 
his pockets, watching with the dazed intentness of 
some one who is not yet quite awake. 

Teufel had dropped down upon his forepaws — cry- 
ing again — sl muffled protesting cry. Now, as though 
released from a chain, he began to race round the 
courtyard, full speed, striking against the walls, reel- 
ing, choking, screaming. And behind him trailed 
blood — a circling pattern on the grey stones. 

There were faces at the window, the drone of voices 
had long since died away. In a moment, as it seemed 
to Helmut, the courtyard was full of people. He had 
a vague impression of Herr Oberlehrer flying past him 
— a gaunt black vulture with flapping wings. He saw 
him fling himself in front of the raging animal — catch 
at it and go down with it. 

The screaming ceased. For a long minute no one 
moved. Herr Oberlehrer and his dog lay in a black 
heap together. At last the man rose. He stood over 
the quiet outstretched body. There was something in 
his hand — something red that dripped through his 
fingers. 

"Who did this?" his voice was subdued — almost 
gentle — ^more terrible than they had ever heard it. 
"Some one gave my dog meat — ^meat packed with 
needles. There were two boys alone with him — Felde 
and Schultz, which of you two is it?" 

The silence hung over them like a sword. Helmut 
turned dazedly towards his companion. The blank 
look had gone. The white face was convulsed and 
twitching with full consciousness — ^with an agony of 
naked animal terror. The Oberlehrer came nearer — 
slowly — slowly — inevitably. "Who was it?" 



90 TOWARDS MORNING 

The stubby hand rose, it pointed : 
"It was he— Hebnut— Helmut did it." 
Helmut turned. He had no thought of protest — 
only of escape. But the black figure sprang on him. 
He screamed involuntarily, as the steel hands fastened 
on his arms. But they whirled him up and up — and 
then, suddenly, flung him headlong out of the glar- 
ing sunlight into darkness. 



in 



In the morning the Herr Oberlehrer's place was 
taken by a junior master — a young man who could 
not subdue the murmurs that rose and died away again 
like an uneasy wind. Rumour and coimter-rumour 
ran from class to class with a lightning swiftness. 

It was Kurt who told them that Helmut had re- 
covered consciousness, but that he was never coming 
back. 

And at mid-day another rumour reached them. 
And suddenly the whispering ceased. The children 
moved on tip-toe. They did not speak to one another. 
They avoided each other's eyes as though they were 
afraid of what they should see there. 

Karl Schultz had confessed. He had left a letter. 
And now he was dead. He had waited For two hours 
and then thrown himself in front of the Orient Ex- 
press at the level crossing. 

What the express had left was to be buried in the 
Town Cemetery that night 

And it was Karl Schultz's birthday — ^his eleventh 
birthday. 



CHAPTER VII 



The Gasthaus stCKxl at the head of the seven wa- 
terfalls. Through a narrow cleft in the mountains 
it peered out on to the Rhine Valley and on days 
when the summer haze lifted one could see the great 
river lying like a glittering, uncoiled snake across the 
plain. 

Hundreds of years before, Franciscan Monks had 
kept watch from the narrow fastness and the Angelus 
had broken sweetly through the ceaseless song of fall- 
ing water. But now the monastery lay in ruins be- 
hind the Gasthaus; careless, irreverent feet trod the 
worn cloisters and the eternal voice was drowned in 
laughter and singing, and the clink of glasses. 

The fir-trees grew close about the monastery. They 
held it in a dark embrace, protecting it against the 
invasion of insolent men. And when the night came 
they triumphed sombrely. Their darkness rustled and 
murmured with forgotten things. The moon, falling 
aslant between their pointed shadows, clothed the 
crumbling walls in white glory and an unearthly life 
awoke and moved with sweeping garments through 
the roofless chapel. 

Then the water of the seven falls was like the low 
singing of a great choir. 

At night Helmut lay awake, listening, trying to 
catch the words which flowed away from him just as 

91 



92 TOWARDS MORNING 

he seemed to hold them fast. Even through his fan- 
tastic, imeasy dreams he pursued them desperately, 
patiently, knowing they held the reason for all he 
suffered. 

But in the day-time he crept away through the belt 
of forest, high up to a sudden opening where the 
meadows ran lush and sparkling to the banks of the 
little lake. Here was silence. The water lay like a 
darkly polished shield under the clear sky with the 
cathedral spires of the forest reflected upon its un- 
ruffled surface. 

The stillness was a cool hand upon his heart For 
hours he sat in the shade of the trees, his face be- 
tween his hands, and looked out over the drowsy peace. 
There were no thoughts to trouble him. His tired 
brain was as quiet as the water. When a broad- 
winged butterfly fluttered like a painted leaf through 
the sunlight he felt a little frightened happiness stir 
within him. 

Then one day at the long dinner table the Geheimrat 
explained the origin of the waterfall. 

"It comes from a secret passage somewhere at the 
bottom of the lake," he said. "No one has ever been 
able to discover the exact source or explain the fact 
that the level of the lake never changes. It is a mys- 
tery, but" — ^the Geheimrat waved a fat hand — "there 
is no mystery beyond the reach of human intelligence." 

The guests applauded solemnly. 

That afternoon when Helmut crept back wearily to 
his place beneath the trees he knew that something 
had changed. The peace had gone. Or it had never 
really been. Beneath the placid surface things moved 
—darkly, unfathomably. There was no real rest any- 
where. It was only a seeming. Night and day, year 



TOWARDS MORNING 93 

after year for generations beyond memory, the water 
had thundered down the seven falls, coming from no 
one knew where, and racing onward had met the great 
river and been lost Night and day for generations 
unborn it would be still rushing to its sacrifice, an 
army of uncounted millions unknown and unseen, 
save when the rocks tossed them for an instant into 
sight 

And every second the little lake would give of itself 
and show no sign. 

That ceaseless, purposeless activity, that ceaseless, 
purposeless giving, stung his numb brain to an unwill- 
ing sensibility. Thoughts flickered up like points of 
flame from a kindling fire. They came and went and 
every time they came they were brighter and keener. 
They showed him pictures that he had held away from 
him with a child's instinct of self-preservation. 

There was Heini, tumbling into the flames, and the 
Oberlehrer towering up and up until he blotted out 
the sky, and the dog that raced round the courtyard 
in a track of blood — ^and Schultz — Schultz as he had 
seen him through long weeks of delirium — Schultz — 
just a little awful bundle lying between the rails. 

And at last he sprang up. He ran as fast as his 
unsteady legs could carry him — ^away from the lake 
— away from the sound of falling water — ^headlong 
downhill through the forest 



n 



He had never been to the foot of the waterfalls 
before. The steep steps, the flimsy balustrade, the 
near thunder, had made him too dizzy. But now in 



94 TOWARDS MORNING 

his panic-stricken flight down the pathless mountain 
side he had reached the valley. 

A funny little sensation ran up his spine. He 
wanted to laugh and cry in one breath. And he had 
not cried since that last day in the Gymnasium and 
he had never laughed. But it was so funny. So much 
noise and terror and splendour and then just this little 
bit of a stream at the end of it all — this jolly rivulet 
jumping from boulder to boulder, falling into deep 
pools and tumbling out again in miniature cascades, 
tossing a handful of diamonds into the sunlight — no 
more terrible than a laughing baby. 

And the phantoms which had hunted at his heels fell 
away from him. His knees shook and he dropped 
down on to the moss and rolled over with his arms 
outstretched and blinked up at the golden light. He 
lay there in an ecstasy of content He thought: "I 
must hold tight to this minute so that it won't go — 
so that it will always be like this — so that they won't 
ever come and fetch me and take me back again." 

But somehow he could not hold on tight. The min- 
utes wriggled away from between his fingers. Per- 
haps after all he did not really want to keep them. The 
water called to him — ^not terribly now, but gaily and 
dancingly. Content was not enough. He rolled over 
again on his stomach and with chin propped on his 
hands watched the brook leap down-hill with drowsy, 
happy eyes. The water was crystal-clear and spar- 
kling. It made him thirsty. He wanted to drink it. 
Other shy little wishes ran in and out of his thoughts. 
It would be jolly to plunge one's hot hands into the 
water — ^to splash about — or most daring of all to take 
off one's shoes and stockings and paddle down stream 
on and on 



TOWARDS MORNING 95 

There was no one looking. He crawled nearer. 
How deep some of the pools were — much deeper than 
they seemed. And there were fish in them, long mo- 
tionless shadows lying in the sunlit bed. He dropped 
a stone into the water and in a flash they were gone — 
so swiftly one could not follow them— one could not 
even guess their hiding place. 

After all, some one had been looking. Some one 
jumped up from behind a boulder on the opposite 
bank. A shrill young voice called fiercely : 

''Du hose Bub! Du base Bub!" 

He stared at her in consternation. It was as star- 
tling as though a real water Nixe — one of Anna's 
fairy-folk — had sprung out at him. She was small 
and slender and brown — ^bare brown legs, a short 
brown petticoat, a brown cotton bodice, brown neck, 
brown little face, brown eyes, dark brown hair, plaited 
in two long plaits. The little fist that she shook at 
Helmut was burnt as brown as a berry. 

'Tfou horrid little boy — ^you've spoilt everjrthing." 

He continued to stare helplessly. 

"I didn't— I didn't know." 
'Couldn't you see what I was doing?" 
1 didn't see you even." 

'I was tickling a trout — ^a great big fat fellow — 
and he had just gone to sleep — ^and then you came 
and splashed — ^you big booby." 

''But I didn't know. Besides " He had recov- 
ered his breath now. After all, she was only a little 
girl — a little village girl. It wouldn't do to let her 
bully him — sl G3minasist — ^with the yellow cap of the 
Quinta. "Besides — one can't catch trout like that 
It's all a fairy tale." 






96 TOWARDS MORNING 



"Oh, is it?" She considered him scornfully. 
"You're from Karlstadt, aren't you?" 

"Yes. How did you know?" 

"Oh, I know all those people from up there" — ^she 
nodded in the direction of the Kurhaus — ^''and they all 
come from Karlstadt and they all talk like you do — 
with the tip of their tongues " 

"It's the proper way to talk." 

"Who says so?" She did not wait for an answer, 
but returned indignantly to his first offence. "Any- 
how, one can tickle trout — ^my brother has done it 
heaps of times— and I would have done it then if 
you hadn't interfered and made such a noise." 

"Well, why don't you do it now?" 

"With you there?" 

"I won't make a noise again." 

"Yes — ^you would. You did it on purpose." 

"I didn't." He was hot and trembling with anger. 
"I didn't even see you." 

"Well— you said I told lies." 

"I didn't." 

"You said it was all a fairy tale." 

"Perhaps some fairy tales are true," said Helmut 
cunningly. 

She considered him for a moment in silence. Then 
her black brows relaxed. She smiled shyly. 

"Anyhow the fish won't come again now. You've 
frightened them away." 
I'm sorry." 
'My name's Lenchen," she volunteered. 

He got up and lifted his yellow cap solemnly. 

"I'm Helmut— HehnufFelde." 

"I like that It's a nice name. Why do you wear 
that funny yellow hat?" 



"] 



TOWARDS MORNING 97 

"It's my class cap. I belong to the Gymnasium — 
I'm in the Quinta now." 

"That sounds awfully grand." 

He brushed up to the roots of his flaxen dose- 
cropped hair. It did him good to hear her say that. 
It was as though she had put a healing ointment on 
a secret wound that was always hurting him. She 
didn't know how low he was in his class. He wouldn't 
need to tell her. He liked the way she looked at him 
— with such solemn brown eyes. It made him hold 
himself straight 

"I expect you go to school too," he said with manly 
graciousness. 

"Oh, yes. Three times a week in the summer — 
twice a week in the winter. It is three miles to the 
school and in the winter we nm down on our tobog- 
gans. It's great fun then. But we don't wear caps — 



ever." 



*r 



It's jolly to be without a cap sometimes," Helmut 
said consolingly. "It makes one feel — so — so free." 

She did not answer and they looked smilingly at 
each other across the narrow stream — ^anxious and 
timid and eager as two young animals who are not yet 
quite sure of each other. It was Lenchen who took 
the next step. 

"Are you all alone ?" she asked. 

"Yes — quite. At least — ^my people are up there — r 
but— but that's different." 

"Haven't you any one to play with?" 

"Oh, no. I— I don't play." 

'Are you so grown up?" 

I'm eleven — nearly." 

T'r'aps you're too grand to play." 



"] 

tr 



98 TOWARDS MORNING 

Her tone was serious, without mockery. He shook 
his head. 

"Oh, no — it's not that I'm not grand a bit — but 
I haven't had any time to play. One has to work." 

"I work too," she said. "Awfully hard. I have 
my lessons and then at harvest time I help in the 
fields and in the winter I carve the birds grandfather 
puts on his cuckoo clocks. But I play too. I used 
to play a lot with my brother Hans, but now they've 
sent him to work in the town. Now I have no one 
to play with. I love playing." 

He looked at her wistfully. 

"I used to like it too. It's such a long time ago— 
I've forgotten." 

"I — I suppose you wotddn't p\ay with me ?" 

"Yes — I would. I'd love to. If you'd only show 
me how." 

Her eyes were full of a shy eagerness. 

"Hans and I make up our own games. P'r'aps 
they're silly." 

"I'm sure they're not I'd like to play — ^if you'd let 



me." 



He had only one fear now — ^that she would find out 
how stupid he was — ^that she would grow tired of him 
and leave him. She bent down and picked up a 
broken piece of branch. 

"It's a race," she explained. "You choose your 
boat and then when I count one, two, three, we both 
throw ours in and the boat that gets to the bridge 
first wins. We have to nm alongside, you know, to 
watch, because they're all so much alike. Are you 
ready?" 

"Yes — ^I've got my piece — I'm ready." 

"One— two— three— oflf !" 



TOWARDS MORNING 99 

He saw at once that there was more in the game 
than at first met the eye. For one thing so much de- 
pended on your choice of branch. His was too broad, 
too clumsy. It stuck in between stones. It refused 
to be hurried, it jibbed at water-falls. Lenchen's 
fancy was slender and light as herself. It leaped 
chasms, it shot through narrow gorges like an arrow. 
On the full stream it was a positive race-horse. And 
Lenchen ran beside it, leaping and laughing, throwing 
up her bare brown arms in joyous excitement. Hel- 
mut ran on the opposite bank. He forgot the game. 
He left his charge shamefully in the lurch. He could 
not take his eyes off that flying figure. She was free — 
free like the butterflies and the flashing lizards that 
he had watched through the long summer days — ^like 
all the forest creatures that he loved and dimly envied. 
His knees shook and his heart thtmiped against his 
ribs. But somewhere in the darkness a little spring 
of happiness was bubbling up. 

"Lenchen " 

"I've won! I've won!" she screamed. 

"Lenchen " 

He stumbled. The trembling knees broke under 
him. He hardly tried to save himself. 

For a moment it was all dark. But he was con- 
scious of being very weary — ^very much at peace. He 
heard some one cry out and the splash of water. He 
felt some one bend over him — a pair of strong young 
arms clasped him about the shoulders. 

"Helmut— oh, Helmut, are you hurt?" 

He opened his eyes heavily. The trees and the 
moss-covered floor made a green mist before his eyes. 
But after a little while he saw her face — close to his, 
so anxious, so pitying that he forced himself to speak. 



loo TOWARDS MORNING 



"It's all right — Fm so sorry — I'm not very strong — 
I can't nin muth — I've been very ill." 

She let him slip down on the ground again, but in 
a moment she was back and he drank the cool water 
out of her brown hands. 

"I know what it feels like," she said eagerly. "I've 
been ill too. I had scarlet-fever. I was dreadfully, 
dreadfully ill." 

"It wasn't like that," he said. "It was different 
They brought me here to try and get me well." 

But he did not want to speak. He was tired — 
exquisitely tired. She still held him close and his head 
rested against her shoulder. She passed her hard cool 
little hand over his eyes. There was something urgent, 
passionate, in her caress. She hushed her shrill yotmg 
voice to a crooning murmur. 

"Poor Helmutchen — ^poor Helmutchen." 

"I shall be all right soon." 

'What made you so ill ? Didn't they let you play ?" 

"I'm so stupid." He did not care now that she 
knew. He was sure now that she wouldn't leave 
him. "I can't learn my lessons — ^that made people hate 
mc. And then something awful happened." 

"What dreadful thing?" 

"There was another boy — ^and he couldn't do his 
lessons either. It made his head hurt so frightfully. 
And the master hated him too — and badgered him. 
And he killed the master's dog. He put needles in the 
dog's food." 

"Oh!" 

"The master thought I'd done it — ^and — ^and — ^then 
he struck me — ^and I was delirious." 

A convulsive shudder shook him. She held him 
closer. 



TOWARDS MORNING loi 

"How silly! How silly! Any one could tell you 
hadn't done it" Her voice shook with anger. '7 
could have told them you couldn't do a terrible thing 
like that. You're sudi a pretty boy." 

'Tm so stupid." 

"What does that matter? You're nice and kind 
and good." 

He shook his head. 

"You don't understand. One must do one's work 
—one must be able to get on." 

"Why?" 

He groped anxiously through his little stock of 
wisdom. 

"Because of the State," he found at last. 

"What's a State?" 

"Germany is the State," he lifted his head ''You 
see, if we can't make her bigger and stronger we're 
no good." 

"And if we're stupid — ^and — ^and can't do any- 
thing?" 

"Stupid people have to be weeded out," he asserted. 

"I don't believe that. I'm sure it's not true. Our 
Pastor says that Christ liked stupid people — ^and little 
children." 

He smiled. He felt terribly wise and old. 

"Nobody believes in Christ. Perhaps you do. 
Country people are more con — conservative. They 
cling to things. But we — we know it's all a fairy tale. 
We've got to start all over again — we've got to work 
things out for ourselves." 

He knew that she could not understand — ^not even 
enough to argue. But her arms relaxed and fell away 
from him. 

"And — ^and — the other boy — ^the real one?" 



102 TOWARDS MORNING 

"He killed himself." Her shudder made him angry. 
It was so silly — so like a girl. "Well, it was the best 
thing he could do," he said roughly. "He was no good 
— and he knew it." 

"He was cruel." 

"No — ^he wasn't. He was off his head Besides, 
every one's cruel. We all hurt each other — down to 
the teeniest, weeniest ant. It's not cruelty that mat- 
ters — it's being weak. Weakness is the greatest sin." 

She sprang free from him — straight up — ^her hands 
clenched at her side, her little face white imder the 
tan. 

"It's wicked," she cried out. "It's wicked. I won't 
— I won't believe it. I thought you were a nice little 
boy — ^but you're horrid — ^you make me frightened." 

"Lenchen " 

Her eyes were hot with anger — with a child's royal 
anger, uncorruptible and pitiless. He could not meet 
it. He wanted to say : 

"You're just a silly little girl. You don't under- 
stand. Life's like that " But her wrath was im- 
placable. It daunted him. It was no use feeling old 
and wise if one felt guilty too. 

"Lenchen " he repeated anxiously, 

"Go away! I don't like you — ^you're horrid — 
horrid." 

She tore her hand from his and ran fleetly across 
the narrow wooden bridge. She was almost lost 
among the trees when he sprang up, calling to her. 
All his superiority had gone, all his little wisdom 
tumbled into ruins. He was almost crying. 

"Please — Lenchen — Lenchen — don't go. I'm sorry 
— I'm awfully sorry. I didn't mean to make you an- 
gry — really I didn't — ^please — ^Lenchen " His 



TOWARDS MORNING 103 

shaken, pleading voice just held her. She stood mo- 
tionless in the shadow like an alarmed young doe, 
her head lifted. "I'm not really horrid — I've been so 
ill — p'r'aps that's why — ^you might be kind, Lenchen — 
you ought to be kind to people who're ill." 

She turned very slowly towards him, looking at 
him distrustfully out of the comers of her eyes. 

*Tfou don't really mean all that nasty stuff?" 

"No — I mean — ^people tell you things — one has to 
believe something. But p'r'aps they're wrong — ^p'r'aps 
your fairy stories are true — ^if you'd only tell them 
to me." 

He was shameless in his fear. 

*'YovL won't frighten me again ?" 

"No — ^never. Not so long as I live. Word of hon- 
our. Please come back and play." 

"You don't want to play. You're so wise and grand. 
You were just making fun." 

"I wasn't I'm so lonely, Lenchen. I haven't any- 
body to play with. It makes me so dull and stupid, — 
please " 

Still she watched him with her quaint air of mis- 
trust Then suddenly she laughed, showing her white 
teeth — and in a flash was gone. 

Some instinct forbade his following. But he 
shouted her name again and again into the forest till 
it ran like an exultant war-cry. 



m 



Every day they met at the foot of the waterfall 
and played together. She taught him all her games 
and they made up new ones. When they were tired 



J. 



104 TOWARDS MORNING 

they sat at the stream's edge and talked and tried to 
tickle trout, though they never caught any. 

"It's because you don't believe," Lenchen would say 
severely. 

"But I do — I do believe," he would answer. "I 
do." 

But then he would feel a sharp pain nm through 
him — like the pain of a wound that will never quite 
heal. 

For when one is so old and wise it is hard to be- 
lieve anything— even the truth. 

IV 

On Sunday he saw her in the white church in the 
valley. She sat in the front row on the women's side, 
and looked up with solemn eyes at the Pastor from 
under the broad flat hat with the red pom-poms. Even 
her legs in the white stockings and her feet in the 
black buckle shoes looked solemn. One could not 
imagine their being so graceless and unashamed as 
to run naked and cut capers. Altogether she seemed 
so wrapt in goodness that Helmut felt a strange wave 
of shame and contrition pass over him — ^and the 
strangest part of it all was that it left him tingling 
all over with happiness. 

She did not look at him at ail — or once indeed when 
her eyes met his it was with grave reproach. He 
could almost hear her say, "Helmut, you're not 
attending." 

After that he sang the hymns so loudly that the 
Geheimrat frowned. And he tried hard to believe 
them. For when he almost succeeded he seemed to 
be nearer to her. 



TOWARDS MORNING 105 



It was the last day of the holidays. 

Helmut stood in his little bed-room and tied a nose- 
gay of wild flowers together with the ribbon off his 
school-cap. On a scrubby piece of paper he had care- 
fully and painstakingly written out a poem. He had 
composed it the night before — in bed. It began : 

"My Lenchen is like the running stream," 

and ran to four lyrical and impassioned verses. 

The composing of it had helped him not to cry. 
Now he did not want to cry at all. The sun shone. 
Even the thought of Kurt of the thick cruel mouth 
and bulging blue eyes could not daunt him. For there 
was one day left — one long day which must never, 
never be allowed to pass. 

The door opened and he thrust the posy and poem 
rutiilessly into the bosom of his blouse. Though he 
pretended to be absorbed in something else and did 
not look round, he knew that it was his mother. He 
heard the crackling of her stiff silk bodice. 

"Helmut, why are you upstairs? Why don't you 
come down? You're always moping by yourself. It 
isn't nice — it doesn't lopk well. Your uncle has been 
asking for you — he has something to tell you." 

She was out of breath and her voice sounded flus- 
tered and anxious. At another time her message 
would have frightened him. But now he only half 
listened. 

"I was just tidying up, Mother." 

'Tfes. That's all very well. If only you would 
keep your hands dean. No, don't stop to wash them 



io6 TOWARDS MORNING 

now. Your uncle hates waiting. He's on the balcony, 
Helmut " 

"Yes, Mother." 

He came back reluctantly and she bent over him, 
tidying his blouse, fussing his hair with plump hard 
hands. He thought suddenly how horrible her face 
was when it came close. And yet just at that moment 
he could have put his arms round her and hugged 
her and told her all about Lenchen. So often his 
mother had made him feel like that — as though her 
dull ugliness were something sad and pitiftd that 
brought them closer to one another. 

"Helmut, Liebling, when your uncle speaks to you 
you will be good, won't you? You must try to be 
more grateful. You're such a funny little fellow — ^so 
stiflf and stolid and unaffectionate. People don't al- 
ways understand that it's your shjmess. And you 
know your uncle has been so good to you. It was 
he who brought us up here when you were getting 
better. We could never have afforded it. And he's 
promised to help you in your career. You know, we 
can't do much for you, Helmut. Your poor father 
has been so unfortunate. When he was a young man 
he offended his chief — ^and — ^and he hasn't been ad- 
vanced as — ^as we had hoped. That ought to be a 
lesson to you — ^always to consider your superiors — ^to 
be polite to them and appreciative." 

"Yes— Mother." 

"You ought to make more of your uncle and aunt 
and Kurt." 

"I hate Kurt." 

He felt her draw herself away from him. 

^'You're not to say things like that." 



TOWARDS MORNING 107 

'It's true. I do hate him. He's cruel and he hates 
me. 

"That's because you're naughty to him. They think 
you're jealous because he gets on so well at school." 

"He cheats — ^and tells Kes." 

"Never mind. That's not your business. He suc- 
ceeds and you don't You ought to be polite — ^and 
kind. You ought to say nice things to him to please 
him. After all, when you're grown up he might be 
in a position to hurt you — ^in the army, or in the 
Government or in business. He might spoil your ca- 
reer just as your poor father's career has been spoilt." 

"But I don't want a career." 

"Helmut, don't be silly. Every one has a career 
— in our position." 

"I — I want to play," he burst out eagerly, "and — 
and then I'd like to be a farmer and work in the fields 
and have pigs " 

She stood right away from him, looking at him as 
though at some one unfamiliar and frightening. 

"You mustn't talk like that — even in fun. Sup- 
posing your uncle heard you? He'd think you 
had no feeling of honour, Helmut — ^no feeling of 
Standesehre. You couldn't be a farmer. All our fam- 
ily have served the Government. It would be a dis- 
grace. One owes something to one's position, Helmut 
One can't do as one likes " 

"Birds do," he persisted, " — ^and butterflies and 
squirrels. They play in the wood all day " 

"Until they get hunted and killed. That ought to 
be a lesson " 

"And Schultz got killed too," he said. 

He was following a new train of thought and did 
not see her face. It had grown cold and hard and 



. io8 TOWARDS MORNING 

white. There was a note of reserve — ^ahnost of an- 
tagonism in her colourless voice. 

"I suppose this is the result of holidays, Helmut 
And you've been ill, so one must excuse you. But 
you're talking very stupidly and wickedly. Karl 
Schultz brought disgrace upon his people and when 
he killed himself he did the only thing he could do. 
People can't live after they're disgraced — ^not in our 
position." She softened suddenly. She pleaded. 
"Helmut — ^you mustn't fail us — ^you must be good 
Your father and I — we hope so much frcmi you. 
You're everything to us. And we've been so sad and 
anxious. You will try and please every one — ^and 
work hard — and make us proud of you?" 

He looked up at her. Her face was quivering and 
her eyes red with tears, but he thrust an answering 
distress away from him. He only thought of how 
quickly he could escape. 

"Yes, Mother— I'll try." 

"Mein liebes Kerlchenr 

They went downstairs together and her hand on his 
shoulder kept his rebellious feet from jumping two 
steps at a time. She drew him closer to her as they 
came out onto the verandah where the Geheimrat and 
his brother-in-law sat over their afternoon coffee. It 
was as though she were trying to subdue him with 
the nearness of her strong body. 

The Geheimrat was in a facetious temper. He had 
dined well. The smear of cigar ash on his waist- 
coat, the disorder of empty cups and glasses on the 
table, the pose of his soft big limbs suggested an 
obscene satiety. His face was flushed and heavy. 
He looked like a big black crow drowsing in the sun 
after some repulsive meal. 



n 
it 

U 



TOWARDS MORNING 109 

He leant forward and pinched his nephew's ear. 
Na, young gentleman, and how are you, eh?" 
I am very well, Uncle," said Helmut gravely, 
thank you." 
Enjoying yourself?" 

'Tfes, Uncle, thank you very much." 

"Good. You've been running wild long enough, 
though. Too much loafing isn't good for German 
boys, eh?" 

The grip on his shoulder tightened. He glanced 
across at his father. The Herr Amtschreiber sat on 
the edge of his chair smiling with weak, anxious 
eyes. 

''You've had splendid holidays, haven't you, 
Helmut?" 

"Yes, Father — ^thank you, Uncle." 

"Panting to get back to work, eh?" the Geheimrat 
chuckled. 

"Oh, yes— Uncle." 

The red face grew suddenly pitiless. 

"Well, you've got a lot to make up for. You've 
done very badly so far. If it hadn't been for that 
illness of yours — I can't put up with that sort of 
thing, you know. I am not going to help lame dogs 
over stiles. That's what I want to tell you. If you 
want help from me, you've got to show you're worth 
helping. You're not going back to the Gymnasium — 
you know that?" 

Helmut glanced swiftly over his shoulder towards 
the forest and then back into the Geheimrat's face. 

"Y-yes, Uncle." 

"You're going to the Institut Bemhard. That's 
where all the idle youngsters are sent. And not one 
of them has dared to fail yet They cram you there 



no TOWARDS MORNING 

like Strassburger gtts^ — so " He pantomimed 
some one pouring liquid through a funnel into his 
open mouth. "When they've finished with you we'll 
get you into a line regiment — and after that we'll see 
what can be done. But you'll have to pull yourself to- 
gether. Verstanden?" 

He spoke loudly so that all the other hotel guests 
heard and looked at the small feverishly flushed boy 
and smiled. A faint tremor of anxiety shook him. 
But it passed as quickly as a gust of wind through 
the branches of a tree. 

^'Yes, Uncle— I'll try." 

"I'm sure he'll do his best to show his gratitude/* 
the Herr Amtschreiber began. 

The Geheimrat waved his cigar silencingly. 

"We all hope so. You know what happens to boys 
who don't pass their Einjahriges exam, Helmut?" 

But Helmut did not answer. His attention had es- 
caped — it was racing ahead of him — down hill to 
the forest. He did not even see the Geheimrat, though 
he was staring at him. All that the Geheimrat had 
threatened was just so much sound. It concerned to- 
morrow — ^and to-morrow was afar off — something 
negligible and unrealisable like death. 

"Didn't you hear, Hehnut?" 

He started, smiling vaguely. 

"Oh, yes. Uncle." 

"If you fail in your exam you will have to go into 
the Army as a common soldier — for three years. You 
will be outdistanced by your contemporaries. Every 
opening will be closed to you. You won't expect help 
from me then, eh?" 

He thought, "Perhaps she won't wait " 

"Oh, yes — ^yes — Uncle — ^no. Uncle." 



TOWARDS MORNING in 

"Good. We understand each other. You can go." 

The hand checked the wild impulse. He lifted his 
cap and made a solemn Uttle bow from the waist 
The hand released him. 

Sedately he walked down the steps and the path that 
led to the brink of the forest He paused and looked 
back. But he was out of sight. 

Then he gave a choking, delirious little shout and 
b^an to run. He ran faster and faster. And at last 
the hill ran away with him altogether and toppled him 
over, panting and laughing, on to the moss-covered 
roots of a big pine-tree. 

VI 

Lenchen helped to pick him up and tried to rub the 
green stain off his knickers. There were pine needles 
all over him — even in his thatch of flaxen hair. She 
brushed him anxiously, keeping her eyes resolutely 
lowered. 

'*You might have hurt yourself," she scolded. 
Boys are always so rough and clumsy." 

And girls are always crying," he retorted glee- 
fully. 'T believe you're crying now, Lenchen." 

"I'm not" 

"Well, you've been crying." 

"I haven't" 

"Now who's telling fairy-tales?" 

He prepared to do a highly aggravating war-dance 
round her, but suddenly she looked straight at him 
and he stood still. 

"I thought you weren't coming," she said. "I sup- 
posed you had forgotten." 

His own eyes had grown rotmd and serious. 






112 TOWARDS MORNING 

"Would — ^would you have minded — so much, 
Lenchen ?" 

"I don't know. I like playing. And I've no one 
to play with now— except you." She shrugged her 
small shoulders crossly. "Well — ^it's no good stand- 
ing here, anyhow." 

She went on up the steep mountain-path very much 
as though she did not care whether he followed or not 
She walked so fast that he had to run to catch up 
with her. They continued side by side, getting very 
hot and breathless, Helmut every now and then cast- 
ing anxious, rather awe-struck glances at his com- 
panion's face. 

"Lenchen — I say — Lenchen." 

"Well?" 

"You know — ^I couldn't help it — ^they wouldn't let 
me go— they kept on jawing at me — I — I nearly cried 
myself." 

The pace slackened. She was listening like some 
doubtful bird, with its head cocked to catch the faint- 
est suspicious sound. 

"I don't believe you did." 

"I did — ^honour bright. If they hadn't let me come 
I — I should have howled." 

It was magnanimous. She stopped to look at him, 
her cheeks bright with colour. 

"Really, Helmut?" 

"Howled," he emphasised nobly. 

He had his first glimpse of the elusive, feminine 
temperament. She gave a sudden shrill little laugh, 
pinched his arm and was off down a side-path, skip- 
ping like a mocking brown elf, her two plaits Aying 
out behind her, Helmut followed at a rather stillen 
trot. He felt sure that she had been making fun 






TOWARDS MORNING 113 

of him all the time — had compromised his masculine 
dignity for the sheer fun of the thing. It was all 
the more disconcerting, when he caught up with her 
again, that she was quite serious. 
'Oh, Helmut, you are a darling !" 
^Oh!" he said helplessly. 

^he took his injured arm and squeezed it hard. 

"We're going to have a whole happy day together — 
aren't we?" 

He gave a solemn nod. He was not going to tell 
her about to-morrow. He was afraid of telling her. 
She might not understand what a long way off to- 
morrow was. 

"Yes. Let's do something extra, shall we? Some- 
thing different I — I'd like something quite special." 

"We'll go up to the Ludwigshohe," she decided. 
"It will be so hot there'll be no one there. We shall 
have it all to ourselves. What did you bring?" 

He fumbled in his trousers-pocket and produced a 
crumbling and slightly soiled lump of Sandtorte. 

"I sneaked it yesterday afternoon at tea." 

"And I've kept my breakfast Butterbrotchen. We'll 
share and drink out of the broc^. It will be like an 
adventure." 

The word gave him a little thrill of memory. Years 
ago Heini and Fritz Schnautzchen and he had adven- 
tures. 

"Let's pretend," he said eagerly. "Let's pretend 
we're lost — or that there's been a terrible earthquake 
and we're the only people left in the whole world." 

She considered seriously. 

"I don't think I'd like that. You see, there's grand- 
father and mother — ^and Hans — ^and my aunt over at 
Gutach — I wouldn't like them to be killed." 



114 TOWARDS MORNING 

He walked on in silence. He was ashamed and a 
little disappointed. He saw that it was unkind to have 
wanted to clear off a lot of nice people for the sake 
of the Geheimrat and Kurt At the same time, the 
fact tliat Lenchen loved some of those nice people 
threw a sort of shadow between them. 

"I expect you're awfully fond of your grandfather 
and mother — ^and Hans — ^and — and — ^your aunt/' he 
said at last. 

"Of course I am. Aren't you ?" 

"I haven't got any — I mean — I don't know — p'r'aps 
town people are different" 

"I don't think I like town-people at all," said 
Lenchen, lifting her sleek rotmd head proudly, "—ex- 
cept you, Helmut And you're not a bit like them.^' 

It was full afternoon now. The sun struck with 
hot golden shafts between the trees that lined the 
steep stony path. The sleepy air weighed heavily on 
them so that they lagged, and struggled one behind 
the other. At the end Lenchen led. She kept on piti- 
lessly. Helmut, breathless and panting, fixed his eyes 
on the little brown heels that twinkled from boulder 
to boulder just above him. His heart pounded against 
his ribs and his breath came hard and short, but he 
kept the little brown heels in sight 

At last the trees thinned. They came out into a 
wide clearing in the midst of which stood a wooden 
hut, labelled "Aussichtspunkt" The path straggled 
on aimlessly for a few yards and ended in a sur- 
prised kind of way with a rustic balustrade. 

Lenchen lifted her bare arms above her head. 

"Now we're at the top of the world," she cried ex- 
ultantly. "There's nothing higher than we are." 

He found breath to stammer: 



TOWARDS MORNING 115 

"Oh, but there's Mont Blanc, Lenchen — ^and heaps 
of other mountains — smiles higher." 

She pushed him indignantly. 

"You're such a horrid little boy, Helmut. What's 
the use of playing if you don't play properly? I feel 
I am at the top of the world and so I am at the top. 
Don't spoil things." 

"Sorry," he muttered humbly. 

He stood close beside her. He felt very ashamed. 
She was quite right. It was horrid to talk about Mont 
Blanc. He would never have thought of such a thing 
when he had played with Heini and Fritz Schnautz- 
chen— even supposing he had known about it, which 
he hadn't. He wondered vaguely what made him spoil 
things — ^things he loved. "I'll play properly now," he 
promised anxiously. 

She smiled upon him — her wide, kind smile. 

It's only because you're so clever, Helmut." 

'But I'm not. I'm stupid. I mix things up. Len- 
chen — I think I could play better — I mean, would it 
matter if / pretended I was all alone in the world — 
with you?" 

"Why, no— of course not." 

He became animated and purposeful. 

"That'll be splendid. We'll bivouac here. You see, 
it's a safe place. We can't be attacked on three sides 
because of the precipice. But I'll have to explore 
round first to see if there aren't any murderers or 
brigands." 

"But every one's dead, Helmut." 

"Now who's being horrid? Besides, there'd be 
wolves and things. And you're under my protection. 
You ought to do as you're told, you know. Sit down 
tinder the trees and wait till I come back." 



"] 



ii6 TOWARDS MORNING 

She looked at him with solemn admiration. 

"Oughtn't you to have weapons?" 

"I have weapons." He thrust a branch through his 
belt and patted it significantly. "Now I'm armed to 
the teeth. You're not frightened, are you?" 

"No, no. Not very." 

He glanced back anxiously. 

"You won't eat all the bread and butter, will you, 
Lenchen ?" 

She made a sign of taking a tremendous oath and 
he plunged boldly into the forest. It was not a game 
any more. It was as real as anything had ever been 
when he and Heini and Fritz Schnautzchen had set 
out on their adventures. There were wolves and 
"things" — in spite of the earthquake there might even 
be brigands. And he was not afraid. If a whole pack 
of wolves had set on him he would have met them 
undaunted. He would have killed them — every one 
— ^because he would be defending Lenchen, who 
trusted him — ^and who for all her boldness was just 
a little bit afraid. 

He was a Knight — a Siegfried setting out to win 
glory for his Briinhilde who waited for him on her 
lonely rock. 

He sent a ringing shout of defiance at the enemy. 

But no one answered. He stood still and listened 
to his shout. It went on and on through the forest. 
It was as though he had given life to something, that 
it had got away from him and laughed at him. And 
afterwards when it had gone there was the silence. 
He had not noticed it before. Now with every min- 
ute it grew more and more profound. It was very 
dark, too. Where he stood the sun had never pene- 
trated for a hundred years. The straight bare stems 



TOWARDS MORNING 117 

of the pine trees dwelt amidst night and twilight. No 
birds had ever built their nests among the branches. 
The stillness was never broken by the flutter of a 
bird's wing or a note of a bird's song. It was as 
though death lived there. 

Helmut knew that there were invisible things all 
round him. He could feel them watching. But he 
could not see them — ^yet. They lay just outside his 
vision. Karl Schultz was there— quite close. If he 
did not move — if he did not make an effort he would 
see him distinctly. 

He had not seen Karl Schultz since he had played 
with Lenchen. 

He forced himself to walk on. He did not think 
of wolves or brigands any more. They were not real. 
Not real like the invisible people. His feet were 
leaden, just as they are in those awfiil nightmares 
when one tries to escape and can't And he was very 
cold. All at once he began to run — ^and ran madly 
with the enemy hot on his heels— out into the sun- 
shine again. 

There was Lenchen waiting for him, her arms 
folded about her knees, the Butterbrotchen solemnly 
placed in front of her — ^like a little dog on trust. She 
waved to him and he forgot why he had been afraid. 

"Why, Helmut, what a time you've been! Have 
you killed them all?" 

'AH the ones I could kill," he said soberly. 
There are things one can't kill," she remarked — 
"fairies and witches and people like that. Even earth- 
quakes can't kill them. There's a little house down in 
Ihe valley just peeping out of the trees. I'm sure a 
witch lives there." 



it 

it* 



ii8 TOWARDS MORNING 

"It's the Forsthaus " he began, but she silenced 

him with the crusty edge of the Butterhrotchen. 

"Bite!" she commanded. 

He obeyed whole-heartedly, and they took bite and 
bite about so that there should be no waste. They 
divided the Sandtorte to the last crumb. They were 
very thirsty, but it was too much bother to find water. 

"Don't you wish you had two Butterbrotchen all to 
yourself?" Lenchen asked sleepily. 
' "Yes— rather." 

But he did not really care. He was too happy. He 
leant back against the tree and through half-closed 
eyes looked out over the earth. It was a dream — ^a 
real dream. Beyond the furthest mountain were great 
shining cities. 

Of course they were on the top of the world. What 
was all that nonsense about Mont Blanc? He had 
never seen Mont Blanc. It was in a book. Books 
were stupid and dull — ^not real like this. 

Of course they were all alone. 

He felt a hand take his. Their hands cuddled to- 
gether like little mice. 

"I am sleepy, aren't you, Helmut?" 

"No — ^not a bit," he declared valiantly. 

Her dark head rested drowsily against his fair one. 

"Dear Helmutchen!" 

Of course there were fairies. 

When he closed his eyes he could hear their distant 
mysterious murmur. 

vn 

He woke suddenly and violently, and even before he 
knew where he was he knew that the dreadful thing 
had happened. 



TOWARDS MORNING 119 

Lenchen stretched herself and rubbed her eyes. 

"Why — ^weVe been asleep." 

"It's gone/' he said. 

"What's gone?" 

"Our day." 

She laughed sleepily. 

"But there's to-morrow. Grandfather says to-mor- 
row is also a day." 

"Not for me. I — I'm going home, Lenchen." 

She did not cry out or protest. He felt the warm 
slack body pressed against his grow straight and rigid. 
She frightened him — she was so still. 

"Why didn't you tell me?" 

"I didn't want you to know. I didn't want to know 
myself. I thought — I didn't think it would ever really 



come." 



"Helmut — I — I shan't have any one to play with.'* 

"I shan't ever play again." 

They did not look at one another, but sta'-ed un- 
winkingly ahead, their eyes strained wide open. The 
shadow of the gatmt pine had spread round them like 
a black stain. The peaks of the mountains stood out 
against the sky in shatp, cruel outline. It was as 
though a silver veil had been rolled up. There was 
no more mystery. The warm mid-summer murmur 
had died into cold silence. 

In the witch's cottage a red eye winked up at them 
malevolently. 

"Oh, Hehnut— Helmut!" 

He turned on her with a choking little cry. 

"I can't — I can't believe it. To-day was to be al- 
ways — ^always. I can't go back. I don't know what to 
do. If only I could run away somewhere. The/re 
sending me away — to a crammer's — ^where stupid, bad 



I20 TOWARDS MORNING 

boys go — they told me — ^just now. And they'll stuff 
my head — full — like a Strassburg goose — till it splits. 
No one ever fails, my uncle said. But / shall. My 
head hurts now when I try to think of things. And 
it will get worse. And they'll laugh and make fun — 
and I shall try harder. Then I shall fail just the same. 
I shall have to be a common soldier for three years. 
And when I come out there'll be no place for me — my 
uncle said — ^nowhere to go. No one will want me. 
My people will be too ashamed. They want to be so 
proud — ^they want me to do better than any one else. 
They're always expecting things — and I can't do 
them— I can't— I can't." 

She pressed her burning cheek against his. 

"But they're your people — they must love you — 
whatever happens." 

His teeth chattered. He made a convulsive effort 
to hold himself still. 

"T — I don't know. If only one knew — why it all 
was — what it all means — ^but we can't find out. There 
doesn't seem any — ^any sense in things — in going on. 
What's it for? One isn't happy. Not boys like me. 
Clever splendid people like Priitwitz — or bad strong 
people like Kurt — they're happy. Because people love 
them— or they're frightened. But people like Karl — 
and me — ^we're no good — ^we can't pass our exams — 
we can't ever be happy — all our lives." 

"But God made every one," she said, with childish 
solemnity. 

"He couldn't have done — not if He was God. 
There'd be no sense in making Karl — ^just to kill 
him." 

"Karl killed himself. The Pastor says it's almost 
the wickedest thing of all." 



TOWARDS MORNING i2i 

"My mother — said it was the only thing he could 
have done — ^because he'd disgraced himself. People in 
our position mustn't live after they're disgraced, she 
said.'' 

He turned drearily towards her and they stared 
into each other's eyes like antagonists who will not let 
each other go. Hers were hot with indignation. He 
began to falter under them. His mouth quivered. On 
the heels of this ruthless philosophy came the slow, 
bitter tears. 

And in an instant she was holdmg him to her with 
all her strength. 

"Oh, Helmutchen, you're such a little, silly boy. 
And I'm littler — ^and not clever — I can't do lessons — 
not fine ones like yours. I shan't ever be able to do 
an)rthing wonderful. I shall just work in the fields 
as long as I live. But Tm happy — and I know you're 
silly — I know — I know — I know." 

He clung to her, sobbing, fighting her with all his 
pitiful wisdom. 

"You say that — ^because you're just a girl — you 
don't know about things — ^about life — and exams. 
You don't understand. They haven't taught you." 

"No, they haven't!" Fiercely she tossed up her 
small round head. "And they never shall. I don't 
know who they are, but they must be wicked people — 
and I wouldn't believe them — not if they were right 
Every one ought to be happy. I'm happy. I will be 
happy. When things are sad I shall know that God 
wishes it and that in the end it will be all right. My 
grandfather and grandmother are old people — ^and 
they're not clever a bit, and they've never done any 
one any harm. But they're always smiling and jolly. 
That's because they love each other and are good. 



.122 TOWARDS lAORNING 

People make jokes about them — because they're so 
old and love each other so much/' 

"Perhaps loving people makes it worth while/' Hel- 
mut said wistfully. 

"Why— and I love you, Helmut/' 

He was silent for a moment, loc^ng away from 
her, red to the roots of his flaxen hair. 

"And I love you, too, Lenchen." 

They did not speak again for a long time. Sud- 
denly all the storm and stress and tumult had gone. 
They sat like little birds, huddled close together, shoul- 
der to shoulder, their arms interlocked, and gazed 
peacefully out over the world beneath them. It was 
so still that there seemed to be no one else alive. But 
the shadows were rising fast up the mountain side. 
Only the peaks were still golden. Westwards red 
clouds hung like smoke over a smouldering furnace. 
The glow was on their young, upturned faces. 

"P'r'aps, when you're gone you'll forget poor 
Lenchen," she whispered. 

"No — I never will. I've never had any one before 
—only Heini and Fritz Schnautzchen. And they 
burnt Heini — and Schnautzchen is so old he doesn't 
care any more. There'll never be any one else but 
you/' 

"""And then when you're a big man you'll come back 
and marry me ?" 

"Yesr— dear, dear Lenchen." 

"And then everything will be all right. Hans will 
let us have the little Bauemhaus and we'll live there 
together and be happy. You won't have to be clever 
or worry about lessons any more. We'll keep pigs 
and fowls and work in the fields with Hans. And 



TOWARDS MORNING 123 

when we have little boys and girls of our own they 
shan't ever be unhappy like poor Schultz." 

"No," he said gently. 

"It's only a few years, Helmut. And they go faster 
and faster. It isn't long to wait. I'm nine and you're 
nearly eleven — let's say quite eleven. We could marry 
when you're twenty, couldn't we? That's only nine 
years. To-day nine years you'll come up the path to 
our house and I shall meet you on the doorstep and 
say, *Here I am ! How big you've grown, Helmut !' " 

He laughed shyly. 

"And I shall say, 'How pretty you are, Lenchen !' " 

"And you won't have to mind when they bully you 
or laugh at you in class — or when you're just a com- 
mon soldier. You'll just say to yourself, 'It doesn't 
matter. It's all silly nonsense. I must be good and 
kind.' And then you must count up the days and 

see how long it is before you can come " 

'You won't love any one else, Lenchen?" 
'Never — ^never. We shall be so happy." 

He believed it. He believed everything. It was as 
though sunshine had come after a long, bitter night 
and thawed the hard unbelief in his heart. Ever 
since she had said, "I love you, Helmut," everything 
had been clear to him. He knew that after all he 
would go back and not even be afraid. He would 
face the Geheimrat and the Geheimratin — ^and Kurt — 
and his mother's and father's grief and shame. He 
was glad now to think that they couldn't kill him. 
He would go through with the crammer's. He would 
be a failure, but he would be happy. 

"We're engaged people, aren't we, Lenchen ?" 

"Yes — of course we are." 

"And engaged people give each other things. Look 






124 TOWARDS MORNING 

— I brought this for you/' From his blouse he pro- 
duced the crushed and faded nosegay. "And there's 
a poem inside. I wrote it — ^all by myself — for you." 

"Oh, Helmut, how sweet of you! I shall keep it 
always — ^until you come." 

They looked deep into each other's eyes — ^smiling. 

Afterwards they walked soberly down the mountain 
path, hand in hand. It was dusk in the forest. They 
were two shadows in a temple with high, mysterious 
columns that lost themselves in a whispering 'dome. 
But far away between the stark stems of the trees 
they caught the red glint of the sun. 

[Where the path ran into the Roman highroad a 
giaunt crucifix stood up blackly against the evening 
sky. There they stopped, facing one another. 

"You will come back, Helmut." 

"Yes— I'll come back." 

"Good-bye." 

"Good-bye." 

She choked back a big sob. 

"God bless you, Helmut, darling." 

"God bless you, dear Lenchen." 

She put her arms round his neck and kissed him 
and wept. And he held her close to him and com- 
forted her. 



PART II 



CHAPTER I 



"Helmut!" 

She bent over him, shielding the candle-light with 
her hand. There must have been a draught from 
the open door — or else her hand shook for the thin 
flame waved to and fro distractedly like a red rag 
in the wind. "Helmut!** she whispered again. It 
was as though she did not really want to wake him. 
He lay there, on his back, half-dressed, a trousered 
leg sprawling out from underneath the grotesque 
white plumeau. His mouth hung open and he was 
breathing noisily. Of a purpose she kept his face 
in shadow. "It's time, Helmut — four o'clock," she 
insisted in the same constrained undertone. 

He did not move and she took him by the shoulder 
and shook him — reluctantly, almost with repugnance. 
He stirred at last and blinked up at her. 

"Oh, all right, don't fuss — I'm getting up." 

He wriggled his shoulder free and turned sullenly 
to the wall. She put the light down on the dressing- 
table in the midst of a sordid disarray of half-dirty 
collars and crumpled ties, and went out as she had 
come, noiselessly, as though from the presence of 
grave sickness. In the dining-room the Herr Amt- 

125 



"] 



126 TOWARDS MORNING 

schrdber waited for her. He, too, was half -dressed. 
His braces trailed over his slippered heels and his 
thin, fair hair stood fretfully on end. Like the fur- 
niture in the stiff, comfortless room, he had faded 
and grown old and hopeless. He did not turn as his 
wife entered, but stood warming his withered hands 
against the porcelain walls of the stove. 

There were breakfast things laid out ready on the 
table. She re-arranged them, setting out the solitary 
cup and saucer, covering the steaming coffee-pot, clat- 
tering nervously. 

Is — is he getting up, Clara?" 
1 think so. He's awake." 
^Did he seem all right?" 

"He was dazed. But he understood." 

"He mustn't miss the train." 

"No, that would never do." 

She gathered her flannel dressing-gown closer about 
her heavy body, shivering with sudden cold, and 
came over to her husband's side. They did not look 
at one another. With the sound of movement in the 
adjoining room they started and grew tense, listening, 
wincing at each blundering, uncertain foot-fall. 

Presently the sounds grew nearer. There was a 
finality about them and the two grey figures braced 
themselves. As the door opened the Herr Amt- 
schreiber turned, rubbing his hands in an agony of 
cheerfulness. 

"Ready, Heknut?" 

"As ready as I ever shall be." 

He was in fact fully dressed, with hat and over- 
coat. But his clothes, at best ugly and clumsy, had 
now a wretched, debauched look, as though they knew 
their own hideousness and were ashamed past hope. 



TOWARDS MORNING 127 

Their wearer tossed down his cloth-covered suit-case 
and came over to the table. His eyes were doggedly 
lowered; in the lamp-light his face glistened with a 
grey moisture. 

His mother fussed over the breakfast things. 

"You'll be late, Helmut. It would never do to be 
late." 

He muttered something and sat down and began 
to eat. They hovered about him uneasily. They 
made little sentences — ^about his train, about the 
weather, about his journey, but he did not answer, 
and they fell silent. Perhaps he felt how terribly 
they loved him — how terribly they longed for him to 
be gone. He gulped at his food as though it hurt 
his throat. At last he stood up, pushing back his 
chair. 

"I've had enough. Fd better be off." 

They both took a deep breath, nerving themselves 
for the plunge. Something that the Herr Amtschreib- 
er was trying to say twitched at the muscles of his 
face. His wife laid her hand with a hard, stiff ten- 
derness on the boy's arm. 

"I've packed all your warm things, Helmut." 

"You must write regularly — ^and let us know." 

"Oh, yes— of course." 

The words tumbled suddenly from the Herr Amt- 
schreiber's lips. 

"Head up, Helmut. Mustn't be too down-hearted. 
After all, if you do your duty, in whatever ^here, if 
you are honest and obedient and loyal, no one has a 
right to reproach you — ^at least, we don't — we — ^your 
parents." 

He broke off waveringly. The boy lifted his heavy 
eyes. His mouth quivered as though he too were on 



128 TOWARDS MORNING 

the verge of some outburst— of appeal, of gratitude 
or love. But the hard, strong hand on his arm tight- 
ened so that he felt the impress of each separate 
finger. 

"Only we do ask, we do expect, Helmut, that you 
will remember who we are, that you won't bring 
shame or disgrace on us. Last night — ^Helmut — ^an 
official's son — it doesn't do. Think of our position. 
If your poor father were forced to retire now — ^and 
perhaps next year he will get an Order." 

His eyes were sullen and defiant. 

"Well, what have I done? We had a q)ree at the 
Erbprinzen. Why shouldn't I have my fling like 
every one else? Kurt did. Kurt had a good time." 

"But— don't you see — that was different? Kurt 
had got his commission " 

"And he'll have a good time often. And I shan't 
ever again." 

"You mustn't take it like that, Helmut. It's 



wrong 

But their protest flickered out. They watched him 
helplessly as he gathered up his things. They were 
unhappy. They ached with sorrow for him, but it 
was a dull ache that had no voice. And mixed with 
it was an antagonism — z brooding resentment. They 
could not forget that he had broken the sacred tradi- 
tion that governed all their life. 

"Well, good-bye." He kissed them both — ^roughly, 
hiding his face. "There, you don't need to worry. I 
won't do anything. I promise. I — ^I'm awfully sorry 
— ^about last night — ^and everjrthing. It's hard on you 
—I know." 

They clung to him. But their agitated affection 
could not hide that they were glad that the parting 



TOWARDS MORNING 129 

had nearly come, glad that it was so early and that 
they would not have to accompany him to flie sta- 
tion — ^that no one would see him go. 

"Try and please your under-officer, Helmut. He's 
the man that matters." 

'TU try." 

He shook himself free from their futile, fluttering 
hands. He was brutal in his impatience. They called 
after him as he stumbled down the dark stairs, but 
he did not answer. 

"G/iicifeatf/,Hehnutr 

They went back slowly to the stuffy dining-room. 
It seemed to have grown smaller — ^greyer. There 
was something poignant about the half-finished break- 
fast — ^the empty chair. They could almost see the 
gesture with which he had pushed it back from the 
table. 

The tears rolled down Frau Felde's cheek. 

"Ach, Hermann, if it had only been different! If 
he had only tried a little more! What will people 
think? All my family are at least officers in the 
Reserve ^" 

"If one does one's duty '* the Herr Amtschreib- 

er began listlessly, without conviction. 

"Our poor Helmut !" 

And yet they drew their breath more easily now 
that he had gone. It was all over. For two years 
there would be nothing to hope or fear. There would 
be no more bitter hours of anxiety, wondering wheth- 
er or not Helmut would again be sitsen geblieben in 
the fatal untersecunda. That question was settled for 
all time. And those wretched months when he had 
"bummeled** — ^the "rest-cure" which was to establish 
him as a pardonable invalid in the eyes of incredulous, 



I30 TOWARDS MORNING 

spiteful colleagues and their no less incredulous and 
spiteful wives — ^that was over too. 

All the humbugging and pretence — ^finished with. 

They were disgraced. But it could never be worse 
than it was now, and at least their disgrace was out 
of sight. 

Frau Felde wiped away her tears. 

"After all, perhaps he doesn't care. He hasn't 
much feeling — ^no class honour— our poor Helmut! 
And as Herr Bemhard said, there is always America 
—or the colonies." 

The street door clanged. The sound hushed them. 
It was so dolorous and final. They sat still and lis- 
tened to the slow, heavy footsteps pass down the 
sleeping street into silence. 



n 

There were twenty of them in the carriage. They 
were packed so close together on the hard wooden 
benches that they could scarcely move their arms, and 
the atmosphere was thick with smoke and pungent 
with the smell of human bodies. They were men of 
many classes, many conditions. Between the burly, 
smooth-jowled peasant in his black broad-cloth and 
mole-skin waistcoat and the narrow-chested youth in 
his town shoddy there was but one thing in common — 
the gay ribbons that streamed from their caps and 
adorned the handles of their walking-sticks. That 
marked their common destiny. For all that they 
looked about them with suspicion, with a dull dis- 
trust, trying to measure each other without self- 
betrayal. 



TOWARDS MORNING 131 

The big peasant produced an embroidered velvet 
case and selected a cigar deliberately. He alone had 
an air of assurance — ^almost of arrogance. The eyes 
turned dumbly in his direction, and he met them with 
a bovine stolidity. 

"Have one!" he said. 

They gave a rumbling growl by way of answer. 
The case went the round and they helped themselves. 
Alone, the boy seated in the far corner refused. He 
shook his head, staring out of the window. His 
neighbour laughed and nudged him. 

"Don't, then. So much the more for me." 

And slipped a second cigar into his breast pocket. 

Matches were struck. There was a general stir- 
ring, a clearing of throats — ^vague, inarticulate noises 
verging on speech. The peasant blew great rings of 
smoke into the thickening atmosphere and squared his 
shoulders. 

"Fm from Titisee," he announced. "My name is 
Veit Thomas. My father owns the Schlangenbauem 
Hof on the hill-side. I am joining up with the forty- 
fifth at Berghausen. My father was Gefreite in the 
Regiment forty years ago." 

They stared at him respectfully. His neighbour 
took courage. He even swaggered a little. 

"My father is Oberbahnwarter at Rastatt," he said. 
"It's not a bad little nest. One can have a good time 
there. And there's Baden-Baden when one wants a 
spree." 

Their tongues were loosened. They began to vie 
with each other. They made their announcements 
with a kind of defiance, as though once and for all 
they were trying to establish their position. Alone the 
Grossbauer's son listened in unmoved silence. 



132 TOWARDS MORNING 

"My father owns forty acres and twelve cows and 
fifty pigs," he said finally. "For two hundred years 
my people have owned the Hof. That's better than 
stupid titles." 

The man with the narrow chest took up the chal- 
lenge. He threw out his hands in an angry, nervous 
gesture. 

"Two hundred years!" he shouted. "That's just 
like a peasant, sticking to the same place, never mov- 
ing, never changing. It's you that stop progress. You 
block our way. We can't move because you're al- 
ways there, like a drag on the wheel. I'm a mechani- 
cian. I'm from Mannheim. I tell you we move — ^we 
know what's going on in the world — ^aye, and we see 
that things go the right way. We working men — 
we're the future — ^that's what we are, and one of these 
days you'll have to wake up or clear out — ^you damned 
land-hogs !" 

The peasant stared contemptuously, but he was 
slow-witted or perhaps he did not think it worth while 
to answer. The mechanician leant forward and 
tapped the boy opposite him on the knee. There was 
something feverish and perpetually angry about the 
man. His sunken eyes were penetrating, bitter and 
intolerant. "And what's your pedigree, comrade?" 
he asked. 

The boy turned slowly as though waking from a 
dream. All eyes were fixed on him, for he alone had 
not spoken. Something indefinable separated him 
from the rest. They felt it and waited loweringly. 
He flushed scarlet. 

"My name's Felde," he stammered. 

"That's not sa3dng much. What's your father ?" 

"An official." 



"] 

iff 



TOWARDS MORNING 133 

"Oh, well, we're all officials more or less. Speak 
up, comrade. Don't be so damned superior." 

"My — ^my father is Amtschreiber at Karlstadt." 

Some one whistled. 

"Herr Jel Einjahrige also?" 

"N-no." 

There was a silence. He looked from one to an- 
other with a kind of defiance that was also a sort of 
apology and appeal. But their faces were hard. They 
considered him dully, curiously, as though he belonged 
to another race. 

"If your father is Amtschreiber why aren't you 
Einjahrige?" the Mannheimer persisted pitilessly. 
I failed — ^I couldn't pass the exam — — " 

Then you don't need to be so damned superior. I 
hate the middle class crowd worse than the peasants, 

but a Bourgeois who is a fool into the bargain !" 

He spat viciously. "Don't you give yourself airs here, 
anyhow," he threatened. 

Some one intervened pacifically. 

^Let's have a song, comrades." 

^Sing yourself." 

The proposer, who obviously considered that he 
had a voice, started: "Deutschland iiber alles" but 
the Mannheimer broke out with a loud oath. 

"That's enough of that anyhow. Haven't you got 
two ideas in your heads, you sheep? 'Deutschland 
iiber alles'! Ach, you make me sick. Every cock 
crowing on its own dirty muck-heap. I tell you what, 
we — we Proletariat — ^we've had enough of that stuff. 
What's Germany to tis — or England, or any blasted 
country? We workers hang together all over the 
world. The Proletariat over the Capitalist and the 



"] 






134 TOWARDS MORNING 

Imperialist and all the other scoundrels— tbat^s my 
song/* 

The Grossbauer narrowed his small eyes arro- 
gantly. 

"I've heard of your sort. We don't breed them up 
our way. God be praised. I'm a Kaiser's man — I'm 
for the Empire/' 

"You would be. You look it But your day's com- 
ing, all right We've had enough of you — and your 
blasted Kaiser." 

You'll talk like that to the Herm Offizieren, eh?" 
Yes — ^I will. I'm not afraid. I don't care for 
any man alive. I'll say what I think — ^straight in 
their ugly faces. I'll put the fear of God in them. 
I've got six million comrades behind me, I tell you, 
and if they try any monkey tricks " 

''Achwast Silly stuff!" 

The Mannheimer leant forward, shaking his fist. 

"You call it silly? You wait — ^you Reichsgisinnr 
ten! You try another war on us. Then you'll see. 
It's we who've won your wars for you. But we're 
not going to win any more. We're not going to 
butcher our brother Proletariat to fill your greedy 
stomachs. No! There'll be no more hip-hip-hurrah- 
ing — ^no more of your precious 'Deutschland iiber 

His peaceably inclined neighbour produced a bottle 
from under the seat 

"Have a drink, comrade ?" 

The storm died down. The bottle went the round. 
There was a grunting and smacking of lips. They 
wiped their mouths on the back of their hands and 
winked at each other with a stupid new-found friend- 
liness. The Grossbauer drank to the Old Regiment 



TOWARDS MORNING 135 

and the Mannheimer to his brothers over the whole 
world in mutual toleration. 

'Tfour turn, my Hochwohlgeborene Herr FeldeT 
The boy hesitated. His face was wet with nausea. 
But they were watching him. The Mannheimer bowed 
mockingly. With a silly laugh he snatched the bot- 
tle, and, tilting it, drank to the last evil-tasting dregs. 



CHAPTER II 



"'RausI Rausr" 

A door burst open. With a frightened jerk the 
muffled snores and stentorian breathing broke off 
and an instant later the darkness writhed convulsively 
in the throes of returning consciousness. Distracted 
groping legs waved ludicrously from the upper 
berths ; bodies tumbled to the floor like heavy, drunken 
spiders shaken from their webs. The voice grew 
angrier, flinging itself into obscure comers like a 
terrier hunting out a skulking rat. 

'' * Rails! Rous, ihr Lumpen!' " 

Then some one sn2Cf)ped an electric switch. 

It was as though a crude searchlight had been 
turned on to a rudely disturbed ant-heap. 

Helmut had already lurched to his feet. He was 
blind with sleep, and yet he was sure that he had 
not slept. He was sure he had heard every sound in 
that endless night. But a fretful drowsiness had dis- 
torted the animal sighs and groans, the twitching of 
over-exhausted bodies, the cursings of uneasy sleep- 
ers into a nightmare which persisted. Even now the 
reality was unreal. He hardly knew where he was. 
But he did know that there was something imperative 
behind that voice, driving him to hurry — ^to hurry 
desperately. 

He fumbled into his clothes. His fingers were stiff 

136 



TOWARDS MORNING 137 

and swollen and unmanageable. His body ached. 
With the hours the straw sack had seemed to wear to 
nothing under him, leaving him on the bare board. 
The chilly stuffiness of the narrow, ill-ventilated room 
had crept into his very bones. 

"Now then — ^bustle, can't you?** 

The Gefreite bellowed his way up and down the 
dormitory. Helmut's neighbour, struggling with an 
unfamiliar uniform, lurched against him and they 
cursed each other childishly. A tense excitement pos- 
sessed them all. Half-naked men, their backs glisten- 
ing wet under the light, ran hither and thither, the 
Gefreite hunting viciously at their heels. But there 
was purpose in the apparent confusion — sl tight-jawed, 
ruthless order that reckoned every breath and gave 
no quarter. They waited one behind the other at 
the washbowls. So many seconds for each man. 
Neither less nor more. The Oberbahnwarter's son 
from Rastatt stood in front of Helmut. Perhaps the 
irritable watching eyes troubled him — ^perhaps wash- 
ing itself. He was slow and clumsy and the line be- 
hind him muttered and fidgetted. They jostled each 
other. A hard-knuckled fist poked into Helmut's 
ribs. The suppressed frenzy of impatience ran like 
a fire over dry grass. Suddenly Helmut kicked out 
savagely. The heavy military boot jarred against the 
boy's shin and he staggered back whimpering, half- 
blind with pain and soap. 

They took no notice of him. They jostled Helmut 
into his place. 

"Get on with it— you !" 

"My bayonet — some one has taken my bayonet !'* 

They found time to snigger. It was the company's 
Einjahrige. He stood aloof, already dressed in his 



138 TOWARDS MORNING 

well-cut tiniform, his long aristocratic face drawn into 
lines of petulant indignation. 

The, Gefreite, watch in hand, shouted at him. 

"Damn your bayonet! Who the devil wants to 
steal your bayonet?" 

"I shall complain to the Herr Feldwebel " 

"Complain, then! Get the whole company into 
trouble. Try it on — ^that's all, my fine gentleman !" 

The victim, on the verge of a furious outburst, 
composed himself, shrugging contemptuously. 

"Here's five marks on the table. The man who 
returns my bayonet can have them." 

They appeared to take no notice of him. He con- 
tinued to dress with an effective deliberation. 

Helmut flung himself into his tunic. He knew the 
routine now. At a certain moment a certain button 
or one was lost. At a certain moment one had to be 
ready at one's bed-side. Then the clothes would be 
tossed out, shaken, replaced, tucked in with a meticu- 
lous accuracy almost as though to the beat of a grim 
music. But they were too new to their task. The 
Gefreite, like some exasperated sheep-dog, yapped at 
their heels, tearing down their failures with a snarl- 
ing fury. 

"You dirty swine ! One can see what pig-sties you 
came from. Wait, though — ^I'U show you " 

But he himself had the look of something himted. 

Gradually the pandemonium subsided. The or- 
derly of the day appeared staggering between two 
pails of steaming coffee. The soldiers dipped in their 
metal bowls and drank noisily, their eyes fixed on the 
Gefreite, whose lips moved with the seconds. 

A heavy step sounded in the corridor. 

In a flash the emptied bowls vanished into the 






TOWARDS MORNING 139 

lockers. The Einjahrige snatched up his missing bay- 
onet from under the bed and was buckling his belt 
just as the newcomer loomed up in the open doorway. 

''Sframm stehenr 

It was quite still. The whirlwind had dropped 
each man, each thing in place. They stood in a 
straight row with blank faces and fixed, staring eyes, 
the middle finger of each hand pressed anxiously to 
the outer seams of their trousers. The diflFerences 
that divided them had somehow been rubbed out. 
The Gef reite and the Oberbahnwarter's son had faded 
into each other's shadows. 
'Everything in order?" 

'Zu Befehl, Herr Feldweheir 

The burly figure moved heavily down the motion- 
less line. The Herr Feldwebel was red-faced, bull- 
necked. The blond, carefully-tended moustache lay 
flat like tiny spread fans against the full cheeks. His 
eyes were small and sharp. They flashed over each 
man like a hungly knife, eager to cut. 

And suddenly Helmut's heart seemed to stand still 
in his breast. The top button of his tunic — ^it had 
come . unfastened — or he had forgotten it. He felt 
it like a loathsome sore which spread and spread 
over his whole body. And it was too late. If a 
snake had been about to strike him he could not have 
moved to save himself. 

Fear again. The old fear— -of an exam or of a for- 
gotten button. 

The Feldwebel stopped short. He seemed to sweU 
up. 

"You call this being in order!" 

The Gef reite standing stiff as a ram-rod at his 
elbow threw Helmut a glance of bitterest dislike. 



I40 TOWARDS MORNING 



^'Verzeihung, Herr FeldweheL'* 

"A pretty sight for the Herr Lieutenants. A slov- 
enly lot. This sort of thing can't go on. Two hours 
extra drill for the whole platoon. Tm not here to do 
your dirty work for you, Gefreite. Verstanden?" 

"Zu Befehl, Herr Feldwebeir 

"Right about I" 

The stiff line was violently galvanised into life. 
Twenty-five men pirouetted on their heels, clumsily, 
unsteadily, like marionettes dangling from an as yet 
unaccustomed hand. 

II 

The little lieutenant Miiller turned up the red col- 
lar of his great coat, thrust his hands deep into his 
pockets and stamped his feet. He made a funny grim- 
ace as though he were reassuring himself as to the 
continued existence of all his features. 

If I were you," he jerked out good-naturedly, 
rd let the beggars go. Two hours parade step, ^ear 
God in heaven! No joke. Bones must be rattling 
like castanets. Not to mention my feet — ^nearly fro- 
zen off." 

As he spoke an icy wind chased across the Kaserne 
Hof and flung itself on the luckless Platoon No. 12 
as though it meant to bowl them over. The rest of 
the company had long since been dismissed, and in 
the empty square the handful of men had a forlorn, 
deserted look. 

The second officer shrugged his shoulders. He was 
tall and sparely built and the movement accentuated 
his resemblance to some aristocratic, temporarily in- 
active bird of prey. 






TOWARDS MORNING 141 

"We have a certain reputation with regard to new- 
comers," he remarked. "Having so recently joined, 
you are perhaps not aware that we reckon to be 
through with our raw material three months sooner 
than any other Regiment — cold feet notwithstanding. 
Each Regiment its own foible, nicht wdhr, liebe 
Kamerad?" 

The question was faintly stressed as though it cov- 
ered a second meaning not altogether agreeable. The 
little lieutenant flushed hotly so that his face was 
even redder than it had been before. 

"Naturally. Let us proceed by all means." 

Oberleutnant von Steuban motioned to the Feld- 
webel, who stood at a respectful distance, and an 
order was roared across the Kaseme Hof . The first 
man in the line jerked forward alone. He moved like 
a mechanical toy that is not quite in order. In harsh 
rhythm his legs shot out, almost at the horizontal, the 
feet comically pointed, and came down rigid, with a 
jarring thud that shook his whole body. It was the 
Mannheimer. His thin face had a sullen, resentful 
look. But he was trying desperately. His uniform, 
a size too big for him, flapped about his meagre body 
and his bayonet dangling from an over-ample belt, 
danced like a possessed thing at his side. 

The Feldwebel kept pace with him, gesticulating vo- 
ciferously, as though he had been the trainer of a 
troupe of performing animals. 

Two paces from where the officers stood the man 
came to a halt — ^abruptly, nearly throwing himself off 
his feet. The mechanism apparently had run down. 

Oberleutnant von Steuban fixed his eye-glass with 
a fur-gloved hand. 

''Herr GottI Bow-legged, too. What do they 



142 TOWARDS MORNING 

mean by shifting these deformities on to us? Haven't 
we any line regiments for such stuff? The next, in 
Heaven's name!" 

In due course the next arrived at his comrade's side. 
The rest followed. Though it was a bitter November 
morning and they wore no overcoats they dripped 
with sweat. Their knees shook under them. 

Helmut came last of all. It was like the old days 
when he had tried to walk past the Oberlehrer's desk 
without stumbling. His legs did not belong to him. 
They did what they liked. But he was taller than his 
companions, better built, and, though he did not know 
it, there was a grace in his slim young body. 

When he stopped at last the beads of perspiration 
rolled down his cheeks to the corners of the smooth, 
quivering upper lip. He held himself tense for the 
abuse that was to come to him. 

To his amazement the little lieutenant nodded. 

^^Es gehtschon. Stramme Kerl! The makings of 
a good soldier there, eh?" 

Helmut heard. And he could not help himself. He 
glanced towards the speaker, flushed with happiness, 
almost smiling. 

'Stramtn stehen!" the Feldwebel roared indignantly. 
In our Regiment we do not indulge in good and 
bad soldiers," von Steuban observed. ''We have sol- 
diers. That is enough. Our idea is conformity — 
uniformity." The glint of malice died out of his 
wooden face. He yawned. 

''And the fellow has such a damned unmilitary ex- 
pression," he added. 






TOWARDS MORNING 143 

m 

They judged that he was now fit to go out into the 
world. At least he could meet an officer without 
bringing discredit on the discipline of the whole army. 
For hours together they had set him to practise the 
encounter and he was as near perfection as the Herr 
Feldwebel Kahn considered possible for a raw re- 
cruit. It was an exact business. At three paces dis- 
tance you stiffened to a ram-rod, threw out your 
chest, jerked up your hand to your cap, the elbow 
well out, your head half -turned; with your eyes fixed 
immovably but expressionlessly on your object you 
proceeded another six paces by which time you were 
calculated to be well past and out of sight. You then 
relaxed smartly and the crisis was over. 

The only real difficulty lay in counting your paces. 

Helmut stood by the Kaseme gates. He had longed 
hungrily for this moment. It had seemed to him that 
if only he could get away from those perpetually 
watching eyes — from the proximity of other human 
bodies, he would be happy. Every day he had thrown 
wistful glances at the broad white road outside. He 
had thought about it at night and gradually it had 
become a symbol of old fancies that as the years 
passed had grown wan and dim as ghosts. There 
had been something splendid and adventurous about 
it — ^as though perhaps it led to a new country. But 
now he stood there and realised that it was just an 
ordinary road after all. To the right it led to Mann- 
heim ; to the left it ran through the insignificant Gar- 
rison town. He knew the town already by hearsay. 
There were a few dubious shops, a couple of public- 
houses, multitudes of bare-footed children playing in 



1-44 TOWARDS MORNING 

the gutters. There were other things, too— barely 
hinted at, though with winks and sidelong glances. 
He had not understood, and no one had enlightened 
him, because, after all, he did not belong — ^he was an 
outsider. 

There was nowhere for him to go— nothing for 
him to do. It was odd how isolated he felt. He had 
hated those jostling, ubiquitous bodies, but in their 
midst he had been warm and assured. There had 
been no choice, no doubt, no thought or questioning or 
remembrance. He had been a mere animal among 
other animals that suffered fatigue and htmger, that 
enjoyed food and rest. 

Now for a few hours he could choose, think and 
remember. And it was as though a secret prop had 
been cunningly withdrawn so that he should know its 
strength. His golden freedom had turned to lead in 
his hands. He would have been glad if the Feld- 
webel had come out and shouted to him to go here 
or there. 

Two Einjahriges swaggered out of the barracks. 
One of them was the boy from Helmut's platoon. He 
wore a fine new uniform that fitted his well-grown 
body creaselessly. There was an air of insolent well- 
being about them both. 

Helmut watched them wistfully as they stopped for 
a moment to draw on their white gloves. The desire 
for companionship — for a word with equals who 
spoke his language, who would not look upon him 
with distrust and hatred, almost choked him. A wild 
impulse seized him. He would go up to them and 
say : "Excuse me, Herr Kamerad, my name is Felde. 
My father is Amtschreiber at Karlstadt. I was in 
the Gymnasium — if I might be allowed ** 



TOWARDS MORNING 14S 

The little rehearsal died in his heart. He would 
have to explain. He thought of how they would look 
at him— -of the contempt they would hide behind a 
glacial courtesy. He went red with shame. Much 
better that they should think he was just one of these 
"Gemeine Kerls" who stole bayonets and exacted ran- 
som. In any case, in five weeks they would go into 
their own quarters. The period of disgusting inti- 
macy with the herd would be over. 

The two young men walked on. It was evident 
that they had a purpose. Possibly they were invited 
out. The Einjahriges were in great demand amongst 
such gentry as the little town boasted. They did not 
so much as glance at Helmut as they passed. But the 
two sentries watched him. Their dull faces were ex- 
pressionless and yet he was sure that they were laugh- 
ing at his indecision. He had turned away, shamed 
into some sort of initiative, when a voice hailed him 
and he looked back willingly, almost thankfully. 

A soldier who had come out of the house opposite 
the barracks, beckoned to him. 

"Hi, comrade, where are you off to so fast ?" 

"I don't know.'' 

"Well, that isn't a very interesting place to get to," 
the soldier grinned at him good-naturedly. He was 
a squat, red-faced little fellow with sly, twinkling 
eyes. "I suppose you don't know your way about 
here yet ?" 

"No— it's my first day out." 

"Hm. Well, it's a dirty little nest. It's better for 
the Herr Offizieren, they can skip over sometimes to 
Mannheim to their wives — or such like. And they've 
their Casino." He nodded towards the red-brick 
building across the way. "Fine doings there, some- 



146 TOWARDS MORNING 

times, I can tell you. Tm orderly to Oberleatnaxtt 
Ton Steuban, and I know. But you can't blame 'em. 
A place like this is enough to bedevil a saint No 
womenfolk; can't get a decent place for them to live 
in. What women there are — ^well, villagers and such 
like — they're more for our sort, eh?" 

In a sudden revulsion of feeling Helmut longed 
again to be alone. He was conscious of something 
«gnificant in the man's manner, as though what he 
said was only a preamble. And yet he was friendly, 
too. And friendliness had become so rare. He turned 
and walked at his companion's side. 

"I suppose you're in your second year?" he asked, 
and hardly knew how hard he tried to roughen his 
accent into tune with the man's broad dialect. 

"To be sure. Shouldn't be an orderly otherwise. 
It's a soft job. Mind you put in for it when your 
time comes. There'll be a regular competition for a 
smart, good-loddng chap like you. And you can get 
your man, too, with a bit of luck." 

"I shouldn't have chosen von Steuban," Helmut re- 
marked. 

The man laughed. 

"Oh, I don't know. One can get round him. He's 
a hard nut, of course. But then he's bound to be. If 
he isn't there's sure to be a harder nut on top to 
crack him. We're a fine regiment The smartest in 
the division. We cut up best at the last Manoeuvres. 
The inspecting general said so. We've got a reputa- 
tion to keep up." 

"I'd choose Leutnant Miiller," Helmut considered. 

His companion stopped short to stare at him. His 
twinkling eyes had grown round and stony-looking. 

"Well, if you think that, keep your mouth shut, 



TOWARDS MORNING 147 

that's all. We don't want any Miillers in this fo- 
ment. Till two years ago we didn't have even an 
Einjahrige less than a count And now, Pfui Teu^ 
fel!" He spat to emphasise his disgust "Miiller, 
forsooth !" 

Helmut was silent. His whole life taught him 
that the man's judgment was irrefutable. And yet 
the little lieutenant had said : "Fine fellow !" and had 
even smiled at him. 

"He seemed — rather decent," he defended doubt- 
fully. 

The soldier shrugged. 

"Maybe. We don't want him. That's all. He 
can take himself over to the One Hundred and Four- 
teenth. They have Miillers like the sand on the sea. 
Have to number 'em, so I'm told. Well, we shan't 
keep ours very long. We had another like him last 
year — God knows how he got in — ^but we got him out 
again double quick. Praised him out The Colonel 
wrote such glowing reports of him that nothing would 
satisfy Berlin but to have him at Headquarters." He 
burst out laughing. "And we'll get our little Miiller 
out soon — freeze him out — or kick him out — some- 
how. Pass aufr Helmut did not answer. Though 
he saw as clearly as anybody how out of place the 
little officer was in such a regiment, yet the thought 
of his humiliation made him feel tired and dispirited. 
Suddenly his companion nudged him. "Got any 
money, comrade?" 

He started. 

"Why, yes — ^a few marks." 

The man nodded. His eyes narrowed craftily. He 
looked round at Helmut, and there was something 



148 TOWARDS MORNING 

unexpectedly bestial in the expression on his round, 
rosy, face. 

"That's good. After all, one has to have a good 
time somehow. If one knows the ropes it isn't so 
bad— even in this damned nest. I tell you what, com- 
rade, you ought to make friends — ^join up with a lot 
of other fellows. And a girl — ^there are some jolly 
fine ones wanting to be knocked off the perch by a 
fellow like you." They had come back to the gates 
of the barracks where a little group of soldiers had 
gathered— evidently waiting. Helmut recognised 
them. There were men of his platoon among them — 
the peasant Thomas and the Oberbahnwarter's son 
and the Mannheimer. They were watching Hehnut 
and his companion with a sort of subdued excitement 
The latter nodded towards them. "All right. Wait a 
bit. Look here, comrade, Fm taking these fellows 
to a place I know — ^just outside — it's a sort of club — 
none of your silly Sing Vereins. It's a private concern. 
One can have a fine time there. I tell you about it 
because you look a decent sort. And look here, I'll 
introduce you to a girl — sl real high-stepper — it won't 
cost you much — sl fine fellow like you." 

The boy stopped short A red wave of shame and 
anger blinded him. He could have struck his com- 
panion. And yet he was afraid. Fear galloped in his 
blood. The man had plunged his hand down into the 
depths of him and outraged the innermost dweller — 
dragged it to light — ^the sleeper from whose threshold 
he had turned again and again in awe and terror — as 
though he knew that on the manner of its waking de- 
pended his whole life. 

And now — ^this man — ^with his dirty, ruthless 
hand 



TOWARDS MORNING 149 

The Oberbahnwarter's son beckoned good- 
naturedly. 

"Come on, Felde!" 

He liked the little fellow. He was kindly and bore 
no malice. Helmut remembered remorsefully how 
he had kicked him. And these men were his only 
companions. His lot was bound up inextricably with 
theirs. If he went with them now he would never 
be alone again. There would be no more distrust and 
hatred and persecution. He would be one of them. 

"Come on, comrade.'' 

But he held back. 

"I— I don't think I will— IM rather not " 

Intolerably virtuous and superior. He flinched 
guiltily under their eyes. The Mannheimer laughed 
derisively. 

"Leave him alone. Let him go his own way. We 
don't want him — ^the beastly Bourgeois spy!" 

The soldier considered Helmut for a moment. The 
good nature had gone out of his red face. It was 
stiff with spite. 

"Dumme Junge!" he spat out. 

They left him there. He watched them as they 
went on their way towards the town. Well-conducted, 
decent fellows they seemed. He heard them laugh- 
ing. 

When they were out of sight he went back slowly 
through the barrack gates. 



IV 



Thereafter war — pitiless and unscrupulous — ^was 
declared against him. They hated the Einjdhrige, but 



ISO TOWARDS MORNING 

he was a bird of passage who could buy respect and 
would one day be able to enforce it. They could 
torment him, but his utter contempt for them lifted 
him out of the range of their spite. But Helmut — 3, 
despised member, an alien caste — ^who would never be 
able to buy or enforce anything — who had lost his 
right to trample on them — ^was fair game. Now that 
he had refused their tentative offer of comradeship 
their resentment became implacable. 

Articles of his equipment vanished daily. In his 
presence they would fall into the cruel isolating si- 
lence of persecuting children or nudge each other and 
titter and whisper. They jostled him from his place 
at the washbowl so that his unreadiness at inspection 
brought him into incessant disgrace. At night a teas- 
ing whisper rose up about him. An obscene, weird 
word would drop through the darkness together with 
his name and a subdued, waspish hum of laughter. 

Most of all the Mannheimer hated him. The man 
lived on hatred — burnt with it. It was as though he 
knew that Helmut, alone among his comrades, recog- 
nised the pitiful contrast between his violent denun- 
ciations of authority and his grotesque efforts on the 
parade-ground. Shame drove him to a persistent 
challenge. 

"You wait!" he vociferated, as they sat polishing 
their accoutrements after the evening drill. 'Tfou 
wait! Fm biding my time — ^that's all. One doesn't 
bang one's head against a brick wall— one mines it 
and blows it up — suddenly. Let them keep on at 
their monkey tricks with me. I'll dance their tune so 
long as I choose to. So much the worse for them. 
The time's coming when we proletariats will set them 
dancing. I can wait until then." Then he looked at 



TOWARDS MORNING 151 

Helmut with his sunken, furious eyes. "Do you hear 

that, you Bourgeois swine? I can wait " Hehnut 

made no answer. The man stood up violently and 
lurched across the room. "Can't you speak? Drop 
those damned superior airs. I won't stomach them. 
What do you mean by not answering ? Do you think 
I'm not waiting — eh?" 

"Yes." 

"You think I'm frightened— eh ?" 

"Yes— I do." 

The threatening hand dropped. The Mannheimer 
went back to his work. But that night there was no 
whispering. The sudden blows rained on Helmut out 
of darkness and almost unbroken silence. But they 
were sparks that, flying wildly, touched at last on the 
vein of gunpowder that ran strangely through his 
docility. 

They had expected a victim. They had loosed a 
madman. His strength was convulsive, fearful as an 
earthquake. The black invisible circle broke before 
him. The bodies that clung to him, seeking to drag 
him down, were wrenched off like a cluster of blood- 
gorged insects. His whirling fists struck horribly into 
soft, unguarded faces. The darkness became his ally, 
for he had no friends to spare, but his enemies, be- 
wildered by the tumult, fought among themselves, 
cursing and groaning in a rising hysteria of thwarted 
malice. 

And then suddenly panic seized them. They fell 
away from him, scuffling like frightened rats back to 
their holes. 

So he stood alone in the centre of the dormitory, 
his body stript naked, bloody and bruised, his chest 
heaving in great breaths of rage and triumph. 



IS2 TOWARDS MORNING 

He waited. The silence was absolute. No one 
challenged him. He had won — and he was alone for 
ever and ever. 

Stiffly he felt his way back to his berth. He 
buried his face in the rough pillow, hiding the last 
bitter tears of boyhood. 



CHAPTER III 



It was the Grossbauer's son, Veit Thomas, who 
told them. He had been elected Stubendlteste, and, 
thanks to the arrival of fat hampers from the Hof 
above Titisee, there existed between him and the 
Herr Feldwebel a subtle understanding highly agree- 
able to both parties. Whoever else suffered injustice 
in the platoon it was not the big peasant. Nor for 
that matter did he escape justice, for even the Feld- 
webel could not stop the inflexible working of the 
machine — and therein lay its strength. But petty per- 
secution, the additional burdens which lay in the 
unteroffisiers' power to bestow, never fell to Veit 
Thomas' lot. Moreover, he was the sure channel for 
all the rumours and scandals of the regiment. 

"Yes," he said, as he leaned against the lintel of 
the dormitory window and watched the Oberbahn- 
warter's son polish his boots for him with moody dis- 
content. "Fifty miles is what they're going to squeeze 
out of us. And if we don't play up it will cost our 
little officers fifty bottles of fizz — 2l bottle for every 
mile. You'll see how they'll hound us along." 

The Oberbahnwarter's son lifted a white face from 
his task. 

"Fifty miles! Why, I've never done twenty. Fif- 
teen knocked me all to bits." 

"And there are to be no stragglers, either." 

153 



154 TOWARDS MORNING 

Thomas nodded maliciously. ''Each straggler means 
a pint less for the winners. Don't you worry — ^when 
your legs fail they'll kick you along." 

There was a moment's heavy silence. 

"They say that General von Dering is to act as 
referee," the Gef reite began, not to be outdone in supe- 
rior knowledge, "and the Emperor himself is inter- 
ested. Of course it's all unofficial, but you know what 
that means. If we win, the Herr Oberst can be- 
gin thinking about himself as Brigadier; if we don't, 
he'll wake up one morning with a top-hat on. There's 
no room in this world for people who don't pull a 
thing off." 

"And what do we get out of it either way?" some 
one asked. 

"Sore feet!" 

An exasperated murmur assented. 

"What the devil do they mean by it ? Just because 
they get drunk at a mess dinner — and brag — and 
gamble. Let them gamble with their dirty money — 
not with us." 

The Mannheimer sprang up violently from his 
berth where he had been crouching with his thin, 
burnt-out face hidden in his hands. 

"And if you were half men you wouldn't stand 
it," he shouted at them. "If I had some of my com- 
rades here, we'd soon put a stop to it. We'd strike. 
We'd have some of these fine fellows up against a 
wall." 

Veit Thomas raised himself. He came across the 
room heavily — ^menacingly. 

"You stop that !" he said. *T11 not have that sort 
of talk here. I'm a Kaiser's man. Besides, it's all 



TOWARDS MORNING 155 

gas! When the time comes your bandy legs will 
step out like the rest." 

They laughed irritably. The Mannheimer glared 
round the circle of angry, contemptuous faces. He 
shook his fist futilely. 

"You wait I" he said between his teeth. **Y(m 
waitr 

n 

So it came to the knowledge of the 12th Platoon 
that the Grenadier Regiment stationed at Karlstadt 
had backed themselves to reach a certain village mid- 
way between the two garrisons, an hour sooner than 
the 4Sth, and that the officers of the 4Sth had sworn 
to have their men quartered before the dust of the 
Grenadiers showed on the high road. 

There was no official announcement. The reason 
for the forced march concerned the men as little as 
its destination concerns the engines of a ship. Never- 
theless, the whole temper of the Regiment changed. 
The exasperating monotony was gone like mist be- 
fore a strong wind. The brooding, peevish faces of 
the officers lit up with purpose. They moved with 
quick, firm steps. The men grumbled — but now for 
the first time beneath the unfeeling character of their 
training there showed the stealthily forged chain 
which linked man to man — officers to men. Willing 
or unwilling, hating or indifferent, they were a whole. 
The herd instinct, deliberately fostered, blazed up, 
consuming the individual with his indolence and cow- 
ardice to ashes. 

The Colonel harangued the whole Regiment on 



156 TOWARDS MORNING 

Parade. The staccato sentences warned them that 
there was to be no straggling — ^no falling out. 

In the chill drizzle of a winter's morning they 
swung, four deep, through the barrack gates. Each 
man carried his full campaigning kit — overcoat, load- 
ed haversack, and rifle. The Captains on horseback 
at the head of their companies, tlie subalterns on foot 
with drawn swords saluted the grim watching figure 
of their Colonel. 

The villagers, standing sleepily in their doorways, 
waved to them. The band played them out merrily. 

They marched on, singing. The first ten miles 
was nothing to the rawest recruit. The rain, sodden- 
ing their heavy overcoats and trickling from the rims 
of their helmets was an old enemy, worse hated than 
the sun, but as yet their blood was warm and their 
muscles supple. Nor was the pace set sharper than 
usual. It was not speed that was to bring them 
victory. 

They sang. When one company wearied another 
caught up the refrain. To the curious marked rhythm 
of their songs they rolled the miles behind them. 

They looked for the mid-day rest. It did not come. 
At two o'clock they knew that there was to be no 
halt. They ate their rations as they marched. And 
now for the first time there dawned on their stolid 
faces an almost animal look of fear and trouble. 

The drizzle had become a downpour. The soaked 
overcoats slopped heavily against their knees. The 
course of their blood, slackening in weariness, could 
not stand against the penetrating cold which crept up 
their limbs. Songs gave place to uneasy mutterings — 
mutterings to silence. 

The grey afternoon faded into twilight — ^night it- 



TOWARDS MORNING 157 

self. Like a black serpent the regiment wound its 
way down into a narrow valley flooded with swollen 
mountain streams. The first ^company churned the 
slush to a sticky paste in which those who followed 
slipped and staggered drunkenly. Under officers 
stumbled up and down the line, flashing their electric- 
torches into the dripping dead white faces, cursing 
with voices broken with fatigue. Blows fell in the 
darkness — ^passively received by bodies almost dead 
to feeling. 

The officers marched on immovably. They car- 
ried themselves erect, with expressionless, insolent 
faces, as though they stood above the reach of hun- 
ger and exhaustion. Now and then a word of com- 
mand slashed through the soaking obscurity like the 
cut of a whip. 

At first Helmut had marched willingly — ^almost 
thankfully. These long marches were a strange relief 
to him. Then his loneliness seemed less poignant. 
One could not be happy nor unhappy. One could not 
even think. One was just a body that marched and 
marched. And afterwards one slept without a dream. 

But now a dull anger smouldered in him. With 
every leaden mile it gathered fierceness. It was as 
though it fed on his wretchedness, blazing higher 
and higher. He hated the men who for an idle boast 
— ^bom of their own boredom — had doomed them to 
this torture. He hated the stupid, will-less bodies 
that lurched against him, throwing him from his 
stride. He could have murdered them. It gave him 
pleasure to thrust them brutally back into their places. 
His inflamed fancy conjured up delicious visions of 
a machine-gun mowing them down in swathes. 

A light flashed. It was the little Lieutenant Miiller, 



iS8 TOWARDS MORNING 

Weariness had pinched his round, boyish face into 
unfamiliar lines. There was a comic splash of mud 
on his cheek. 

"Kopf hoch. Kinder — only another mile or two— 
kopf hochr 

He had come back to say that — ^he had left his 
place just to encourage them — when every step 
counted. Helmut wondered at the strangeness of his 
own voice. 

^'Jawohl — Herr Leutnant!" 

The lieutenant nodded and smiled. 

"Stramme KerlsT 

He vanished, splashing into darkness. 

The Oberbahnwarter's son marched at Hehnut's 
side. Whilst daylight lasted he had kept up a sullen 
silence, but now that the night hid them from each 
other he weakened. Perhaps he forgot who was his 
companion. But at heart he was a kindly, good-na- 
tured little fellow who only ostracised Helmut be- 
cause it was the easiest thing to do. 

His voice sounded faint and distant. 

"Do you think it will ever come to an end, com- 
rade?" 

"Oh, yes — it can't be much further. The Herr 
Leutnant said so. Is an)rthing wrong?" 

"I don't know. There's a pain under my ribs. If 
I stopped I should fall down." 

"Give me your rifle. I am stronger than you." 

"No — no, comrade." 

"No one will see. Come, do as I say." 

The boy sighed. 

"Thank you— comrade — thank you." 

Suddenly an electric wave thrilled along the stag- 
gering line. They straightened up like men waking 



TOWARDS MORNING 159 

from a stupor. The ranks closed up. Somewhere 
ahead a light glimmered. 

"The signal — ^they've not arrived yet." 

"In sight." 

"Fifty miles — ^twenty-three hours." 

"The Grenadiers — they say — ^two miles off." 

An under-officer ran down the column bellowing 
fiercely. 

"Sing — sing, will you— <ir " 

They sang. It was like a miracle. The faint sickly 
light of morning shewed in the west as they thundered 
into the village — ^victorious, at parade step, caked in 
mud, with blank faces. 

The General took their salute from the steps of 
the little inn. He greeted the officers who stood about 
him, stifHy erect, their hands to their helmets. Soaked 
and mud-splashed as they were, they retained an in- 
vincible immaculateness. 

^^Ich gratuliere, meine Herren. Magnificent record. 
The Emperor will be delighted." 

It was fortunate that the Oberbahnwarter*s son 
stood in the second rank. No one, except the two 
men on either side of him saw him fall. He slid 
down quietly, rather comically — ^like a sawdust doll 
whose stuffing has run out. 

They dared not move to help him. And it was only 
five minutes later when the General had finished his 
harangue that they knew exactly what had happened. 

in 

From the inn across the way came music. The 
Grenadier band, which had come by train, was playing 
a song from Der Walzetraum" — 



i6o TOWARDS MORNING 



'Model fein — miidel mein 
Gieht sich drein, sagt nicht nein- 



In the intervals they could hear voices, laughter. 
They imagined the click of glasses, the warm, de- 
licious flow of red wine from dusty bottles, the golden 
sparkle of native Sekt, the lights and glitter and 
warmth. 

They lay there, seeing and hearing these things 
with their inflamed souls. There was no sleep. 
Their bodies were agony to them — ^a dull persistent 
agony which kept them tossing and twisting in the 
straw with the muffled sighs of exhausted cattle. 
Some one had tried to kindle a fire in the comer of 
the bam and they had huddled round the pitiful blaze, 
holding their stiflF, blue hands out to it in a kind of 
supplication. But the wood was wet and the flames 
shrivelled and grew pale, throwing up a film of smoke 
through which the circle of faces showed dim and 
unreal. Now the light died out wholly and each man 
was alone. 

"My feet— my feet " 

The sudden whimper stung them to fury. They 
were worn threadbare. Their outer defences were 
gone. Their raw nerves quivered and twitched. They 
were ready to fall on each other for a word. 

"Curse you ! Shut your face ! Do you think you're 
the only one?" 

"I've got feet, too, haven't I? Bloody feet — stuck 
to my boots they have. I heard the blood squelch- 
ing " 

"And that damned haversack — ^I can put my fingers 
in the ridges on my shoulders." 



TOWARDS MORNING i6i 

"Some people seem to think they've got all the 
trouble " 

"Well, why don't they stick us where we could get 
dry. It's this cold — ^it b-bites into one — like a dog's 
tooth." 

"Much they care. Dirty devils the whole lot. If 
there was a war I know whom I'd plug first" 

"Animal torture — ^that's what it is." 

"Bah — d'you think they'd let their horses rot in the 
wet and cold ?" 

"Hark at them over there with their blasted music !" 

Some one giggled hysterically. 

"That's out of the Walsefraum. I heard it last 
year at the Summer Theatre. It's a fine song." He 
began to sing in a cracked falsetto. 

"Niemand kann tansen wie meine Frau," 

They screamed at him, shaking their fists. 
"Stop that noise ! How is one to get to sleep ?" 
"Well, we're not sleeping anyhow. Might as wefl 
be jolly." 

"To-morrow they'll march us back ^" 

"Not me — ^not on my bloody stiunps — I'll see them 

damned ^" 

"Listen — they're toasting some one now." 
"It's the Regiment," The speaker assumed a satir- 
ical, nasal intonation. " 'Meine Herren — das vier and 
funfjsigste Regiment Kaiserin Augusta — es lebe hochf 
There, can't you hear *em? That's the Herr Mayor 
speaking. I can see his turkey-cock face from here." 
"Herr Je! The Regiment!" 
An awed silence fell upon them. The storm sank. 
They sat still, listening. The Grenadiers' tnunpeter 
sent a deep thrilling fanfara into the night and then 



"] 



i62 TOWARDS MORNING 

a wave of subdued applause came across the street to 
the huddled listeners. 

"Drinking our healths !" 
'Don't you believe it/' 
Why not? We're the Regiment, too, aren't we?" 

"They may well! Fifty miles in twenty-three 
hours." 

"An infantry regiment of the line whacking the 
Grenadiers — ^ho — ho !" 

"The/ve sent a telegram to the Emperor." 

"Who cares ? He hasn't got blisters as big as hen's 
eggs on his feet." 

"I saw the Emperor once — ^at Wiesbaden — ^with his 
staff. Herr Jet How they shone. The Emperor 
rode down the line of troops. He said : *Good morn- 
ing, soldiers !' and they shouted back : 'Good morning, 
Your Majesty I' I thought I'd be glad when I was a 
soldier, too." 

"My grandfather talks about the old Emperor. He 
cries when he talks about him — ^he's very old now. 
The Emperor pinned the cross on his breast with his 
own hands. That was at Versailles in 1871. The 
Cross hangs on the wall in our sitting-room but 
when grandfather goes to meet his old comrades in 
the Kriegerverein he wears it." 

"Ah, yes — those were great days." 

Their voices were growing clearer. They seemed 
to be coming out of some thick, muffling fog. 

"These are great days, too. People used to make 
fun of us Germans. They don't laugh now." 

"No— they're afraid." 

"The lieutenant says that one day we shall beat 
them all. God means us to— because we're stronger 
and braver and can suffer more." 



TOWARDS MORNING 163 

"That's why they ^ut 'God with us' on the coins. 
The Lord God loves brave men." 

"My grandfather says it's a glorious thing to be a 
German soldier and to die for one's Fatherland." 

"When I go home on leave I shall wear my best 
uniform. In church people will look at me. They 
will nudge each other. 'There's young Brentfeld. 
He's in the 45th — ^the Regiment that did fifty miles in 
twenty-three hours and was congratulated by the 
Emperor. My girl will be so proud. My brother was 
rejected and his girl broke it off. She was ashamed." 

They smiled in the darkness— each man with his 
own vision. 

^^Ach ja — ^it's a grand thing." 

A new voice broke in querulously. 

"Soldiers are just cannon fodder. They, over there 
— I tell you they're not thinking about us." 

"But it was we who did it." He was answered 
fiercely. "We did it." 

We damn well had to— they made us." 
Something made thetHj too. They're human — 
sort of. Besides they couldn't have made us — ^not if 
we hadn't meant to." 

"Yes — that's queer. Look here — I'll tell you some- 
thing — I meant to drop out. I made up my mind. 
I didn't care — ^what's a few days' cells compared to 
this? But when it came to the point I had to stick 
it — I had to^something sort of got hold of me." 

"Yes — ^that's it— one can't stop— one can't get out." 

They brooded for a while over the thing which had 
possessed them — ^which possessed them now in spite 
of all their misery. Then a voice broke out again : 

"Little Schneider went all the way — ^and he'd never 
done twenty miles." 






i64 TOWARDS MORNING 

They stirred uneasily in their straw. They began 
to whisper as though they were afraid of being over- 
heard. 

"He dropped, though, when it was all over." 

"They — they say he's dead." 

"Heart failure." 

"He knew he couldn't do it — he told me." 

"But he couldn't drop out either." 

A sigh rose out of the darkness. 

"Well — that's life. We Germans have got to be 
strong. The weak chaps have got to be weeded out 
somehow." 

"A good thing, too. Up at the Hof we don't breed 
pigs off a rotten stock. We kill 'em off. Well, this'U 
be something to tell the old man. They didn't do fifty 
miles like that in his day." 

" Ach, now you're beginning to brag ! A minute ago 
you were ready to shoot 'em for what they've done to 
us. And what are you bragging about? Because 
you've stuck it like a horse that goes till he drops to 
please the beast that rides him? Because the/ve 
squeezed the life out of one of us — ^is that why you're 
\nflating yourself, Veit Thomas? You whipped 
hounds — ^you growl, but you like licking the boot that 
kicks you. You'd cheer a monkey so long as he wore 
a helmet and pranced to a military band. Pfuil You 
make me sick." 

They turned savagely towards the voice. 

"Hold your tongue — ^we know all about you." 

"You're a brave fellow when there's no one lode- 
mg.' 

"Tell us about the Proletariat and how you're going 
to make people walk on their heads." 

"Why don't you do as you say?" 



TOWARDS MORNING 165 

"Yes, spit in the Herr Feldwebers face next time 
you see him." 

"Then pVaps we'll listen/' 

They jeered hysterically. For he had laid hands on 
the thing that justified and glorified their misery. If 
it was not a holy, splendid thing then they were mad- 
men. Their world would collapse about their ears. 
There would be nothing left but their bleeding feet 
and aching limbs. 

The Mannheimer did not answer and they sank 
into a brooding, exasperated silence. 

Helmut lay with his face in his arms trying to hide 
from the mingled stench of straw and dirty bodies and 
saturated clothing. The wet cold had eaten through 
to his bones but in the very heart of him there was 
still a flicker of life— of something that thought and 
reacted to exterior stimulus. And strangely enough 
it was the Mannheimer who kept the flame alive. 
Helmut had seen the would-be rebel's face in that 
brief firelight. They had exchanged glances — sig- 
nificant, deadly. The sunken, burning eyes had stared 
back into his with a tragic triimiph — ^with the look 
of a man who has come through shame and anguish 
to some releasing, expiating purpose. 

'Tou wait!" it had said. "You wait! You shan't 
jeer at me again." 

In the dead quiet of the village street the thud of 
marching feet sounded ominous. It came nearer- 
it stopped to the rattle of grounded arms. The lis- 
teners rolled over with a stifled cursing. 

"The patrol!" 

The door flew open and a lighted lantern flashed 
searchingly over their dazed faces. An under-ofiicer 
followed on the heels of the lieutenant who had evi- 



i66 TOWARDS MORNING 

dently left the feast to carry out this last irksome 
duty. The splash of mud on his patent-leather boots 
enhanced their brilliancy. He brought in with him 
the warm scent of wine and cigars. 

''Auf stehenr 

They lurched stifly, with agony to their feet — all 
but one. And he did not move. He sat with his 
back to the wooden wall, his arms clasped about his 
knees, his face a white wet mask in the light. A 
queer little smile twitched at the comers of his tight 
lips. 

The under-officer stumbled over the straw towards 
him. 

"Get up! What's the matter with you? Are you 
drunk or mad or what ?" 

"I've had enough. That's why I'm not getting up. 
I've been driven like a beast. In the name of my suf- 
fering ccHmrades over the whole world — ^I protest." 

The voice was high-pitched and quavering. It was 
terror-wracked. Yet he sat there. The under-officer 
made a movement of sheer helplessness. He was 
more than half afraid of that set, wild-staring figure. 
Only madness could explain it. And he had met mad- 
ness before — rafter the manoeuvres. 

The lieutenant motioned him imperiously aside. He 
was young and the cruel march and deep drinking had 
inflamed his temper. He was going to make an ex- 
ample — prove to himself perhaps that he could uphold 
his authority like a veteran. 

"Get up!" he said quietly and dangerously, "Get 
up!" 

The Mannheimer glanced across at the pale line 
of tense, watching faces. He sought out Helmut, 
the same smile of childish triumph about his mouth. 



TOWARDS MORNING 167 

He did not move. "Get upl Do you hear? For 
the last time ** 

The lieutenant kicked the crouching figure with 
his delicately-shod foot. 

Then — grotesquely, like a jack-in-the-box, released 
by its spring — the Mannheimer bounded up. His arms 
whirled. His flat open hand struck full across the 
lieutenant's face. 

It was as though a hidden mine had been exploded 
under their feet. In the falling dust and debris they 
heard the shrill rasp of steel — a, light flashed up. But 
before it fell, Helmut had lurched between. He flung 
himself upon the frantic soldier, bearing him down, 
pinning him to the groimd. In a strange, convulsive 
embrace they held each other. 

When at last they were dragged apart the lieuten- 
ant's sword had slipped back into its sheath. 

It was quite still now. They dared not look at one 
another. Something had been shattered — something 
that had seemed fundamental and inevitable. For the 
moment, authority, rank and caste were wiped out. 
They were like men struggling out of the ruins of a 
fallen house, asking themselves : "What has happened ! 
Who are we? What remains?*' 

There was disaster in the dark, evil-smelling atmos- 
phere. Only the Mannheimer seemed unconscious of 
it. He looked about him vaguely, seeing no one, until 
his eyes met Helmut's and then his brows twitched 
with a kind of pathetic puzzlement. 

The lieutenant's hand lay clenched white on the 
hilt of the sword he had drawn too late. He was a 
mere boy now — a boy who had played clumsily with 
a machine that had no mercy on clumsiness. He knew 
• — and the men whom he commanded and the under- 



i68 TOWARDS MORNING 

ofBcer who stood baffled and horror-stricken beside 
him knew — ^that there could be no mercy. 

The red stain was . spreading over the bloodless 
cheek. Twice he tried to speak. His lips quivered 
with the effort. They could almost hear the sob in 
his throat. 

And at last it was the under-officer who blustered 
out an order. 

Two soldiers from the patrol closed in smartly on 
cither side of their prisoner. 

''Vorwiirtsr 

The door slammed to and they were again in dark- 
ness. They crouched down in the wet straw, listen- 
ing. 

The interminable waltz music from across the way 
flowed over the dull receding footsteps. 



CHAPTER IV 



The next day they were marched back. 

It seemed that the light in him had gone out finally. 
He had become a mere physical organism that moved 
at a word and stopped at a word — ^that hungered sav- 
agely for food and rest and for vague, unnamable 
things. The desire of them writhed like newly hatched 
serpents at the bottom of his darkness. 

He stood at the gates of the barracks and stared 
brutishly in front of him, brooding over nothing. He 
still suffered — suffered even acutely as a paral)rtic 
suffers in the first hours of atrophy, but he did not 
know that he was suffering. His mind registered no 
emotion. He could not have taken a decision — could 
not have moved suddenly to save himself. Yet when 
a grey-coated figure turned in at the Kaseme Gates 
he stiffened sharply and the middle finger of each hand 
found the outer seam of his trousers in a lightning 
reaction. 

Lieutenant Miiller glanced at him and stopped. 

"Why, you're the fellow Fve been thinking about. 
We want extra help at the LiebestnoM to-night You 
— ^you seemed to me the sort of fellow who knows how 
things are done. Do you think you could lend a hand 
without disaster?" 

'Jofwohl, Herr Leutnant." 

^Good. Report yourself to the mess sergeant. TeH 
him I sent you." 

169 






I70 TOWARDS MORNING 

^'Jawohl, Herr Leutnant." 

The other did not pass on. He stood there with a 
set, earnest expression on his pleasant face. It was 
almost as though he were trying to overcome a cer- 
tain embarrassment. 

"Look here," he jerked out suddenly. ''You don't 
belong in this galere. I can see that You're edu- 
cated—different. Why aren't you an Einjahrige?" 

"I failed — three times, Herr Leutnant." 

"Ah, yes — yes." He dug his hands deep into the 
pockets of his great-coat, shivering a little. "Pretty 
rough for you, eh ?" 

Helmut did not answer quickly. He shrank from 
the question as from a surgeon's knife. He was 
afraid — resentful. Why was this man — this c^cer 
trying to make him feel and remember — when he had 
almost forgotten ? He stared stolidly. 

'Jawohl, Herr Leutnant." 

^Ach — um Gotteswillen, answer like a human-be- 
ing for once. It's my duty to know something about 
you. I asked you a question, Felde." 

Helmut set his teeth sullenly. This stranger could 
probe and dig as much as he liked. He should not 
get through. He should not hurt. If there was a 
living nerve left he should not find it. 

"I don't know what the Herr Leutnant means." 
Then his interrogator looked at him — so straightly, 
with so much goodness that he faltered. "It was 
bad at first, Herr Leutnant— one gets accus- 
tomed " 

"Hardened, you mean. And that's bad. These 
other fellows — ^they're living above their own level, 
some of them. They'll come out all the better for it. 
But you'll be roughened — ^as the best must be. It 



€€ 



TOWARDS MORNING 171 

won't do. Remember — ^you've got to go back to your 
own life." 

He had found the nerve — at one sure glance. And 
it was alive. It hurt incredibly. It was like coming 
back out of a narcotic to the bitter knowledge of pain 
and disfigurement. And yet under those loyal, friend- 
ly eyes, Helmut came back gladly. There was some- 
thing sweet — almost voluptuous in this surrender to 
the other's will. 

"I haven't an)rthing to go back to, Herr Lcutnant." 

'^our people?" 

"They don't know what to do with me. They're 
ashamed." 

"You must make them proud. And, anyhow there's 

yourself. If yourself isn't ashamed " He broke 

off. Perhaps he remembered who he was — what his 
brother-officers would say if they heard. Perhaps just 
for that moment he too was afraid. And for just so 
long they stood there, staring at each other, a pace's 
distance between them, two boys, almost of an age, 
oddly alike with their fair round faces, divided by a 
gulf which by the law of caste they must not cross. 
The lieutenant lifted his head sharply. "Next year 
you can be my orderly, if you choose," he said. "Then 
I could make things easier fior you. I could lend you 
books — and things — help you. You'd be in my quar- 
ters. Only " A youthful sternness hardened his 

glance. "Only it's for you to choose. You'll have 
to show that you want it. You know what I mean. 
If you let yourself go now, in a year's time you'll be 
finished. You've got to keep your soul alive. It will 
be hard going. You'll have to hold out alone." 

Outwardly they were just officer and man. Helmut 
had not moved. He stood rigidly at attention. But 



172 TOWARDS MORNING 

all the thwarted affection, all the passicmate idealism 
and hero-worship of youth was in his throat as he 
answered. 

"Herr Leutnant — ^I'd do anything — put up with 
anything — I'd be glad — if only there was something 
to work for— I'd *' 

He could have fallen on his knees and kissed the 
other's hand. He would have died for him. Per- 
haps the little lieutenant knew for he turned away, 
blushing hotly. 

"Until next year, then, Felde !" 

'TJntil next year, Herr Leutnant!" 

"And to-night you serve in the mess?" 

"Ztt Befehl, Herr Leutnant!" 

A faint, rather bitter smile twitched at the comers 
of the officer's mouth. He nodded and passed on 
quickly. But Helmut stood and watched him until 
the slight, grey figure had faded like a wraith into 
the dusk. 

n 

The dinner was over. The mess orderlies moved 
about briskly, clearing the long table, carrying liqueurs 
and coffee. Chairs were pushed back. The harsh 
ceremoniousness of the earlier hours was relaxed. 
Men lounged comfortably in their places. A fra- 
grant amethyst veil of smoke rose up like incense 
through which a portrait of Bismarck looked down 
inscrutably. 

"No^it's a pity our good comrades from Karlstadt 
cannot take a beating," Major von Schonau remarked. 
"All this fuss about detail strikes me as unsportsman- 
like. Because some fellow drops down with heart- 



TOWARDS MORNING 173 

failure and another goes off his head doesn't alter the 
fact that we beat them. If it had been a question of 
manoeuvring for a position in war-time we should 
have won.** 

"Undoubtedly." The Colonel at the head of the 
table shrugged his broad shoulders. "But you know 
what Majestat is — it's the all-round standard that 
cotmts. Two links in our chain snapped and it will 
go against us in Majestat's opinion. You will see 
that I am right." 

The conversation drifted down the table to the sub- 
alterns. 

"Good Lord — ^all that swot for nothing." 

"And to-morrow the old grind again:" 

"Drilling blockheads that can't tell their right foot 
from their left and don't know how to use a pocket- 
handkerchief !" 

There was a laugh. 

"Rehearsing a play that never comes off !" the red- 
faced Major muttered bitterly. "That's what soldier- 
ing means these days." 

Hauptmann von Theobald patted him on the shoul- 
der with a slim, white hand. 

"Just wait a little, my friend. It will come." 

"You think so ? Ah, yes, for our sons' sons. Mean- 
time we rot here in this God- forsaken hole — in a 
ghastly monotony of routine that is idiotic unless it 
leads to war — ^not even able to relax in it — with not 
a soul to speak to but ourselves — ^not even able to live 
with our families because no family could be brought 
up in such a place — ^rotting in soul and mind — for 
nothing. To no purpose. And when we've given our 
best years — ^when we're too old, too petrified to be 
anything else we get a blue envelope dropped on our 



174 TOWARDS MORNING 

breakfast table and we know that Majestat is grateful 
for our services but has had enough of them." 

A silence answered the bitter tirade. The younger 
men half-smiled but there was an uneasy, irritable 
look on the faces of their seniors. The one com- 
moner among them leant forward eagerly. 

"The truth is that soldiers unless they are fighting 
are sort of organised lunatics," he said. "We spend 
our days doing things that have no sense in them. If 
we have a talent for anything intelligent or beautiful 
we have to suppress it and suppress it in others. Von 
Liebenau there has a voice that would have taken 
him all over Europe and he has to crack it on parade. 
Von Theobald is an artist, but if he dared to paint a 
picture that was worth anything he would be sus- 
pect as a soldier — and quite rightly because nobody 
with an artist's mind could do futile, ugly things intel- 
ligently. It is the same with everything. A soldier 
is simply a negation." 

They were silent a moment, turning to him with 
an over-emphasised consideration. 

"Except when he is fighting," von Steuban observed 
with his Berlin drawl. "You made that reservation 
yourself, mein Lieber. When he is fighting he is the 
high-priest of his country. And we shall fight. This 
is only the preparation." 

"But when — whom in heaven's name?" Miiller ex- 
claimed. 

"Soon — ^and perhaps everybody. You cannot go on 
sharpening a sword forever. If you do the time comes 
when it will snap in your hands. Our Government 
knows that There are signs already that if we do 
not fight soon it will be too late. At present we are 



TOWARDS MORNING 175 

firmly welded— of one mind — ^but to-morrow — who 
knows ?" 

"Why should we fight at all?" 

There was again the silence — the invisible stiffen- 
ing. Von Steuban laughed. 

"Our friend is trying to tell us that we are anach- 
ronisms as well as lunatics and negations/' he said. 
He leant his elbow on the table, his long chin in his 
hand. "He forgets that it is quite open to every man 
who feels that he has wasted himself to take off the 
King's coat to-morrow." 

Miiller moved sharply in his place and the eyes of 
the two men met and held. The red-faced Major 
interposed noisily. 

"Well, and who is our next whetstone to be. 
France ? We should beat her, eh ?" 

''Aber glattr 

"Russia?" 

"A tottering Colossus." 

"Both together?" 

"So much the better." 

"England?" 

"Ah!" 

They considered the point gravely, dispassionately. 
The Colonel broke the silence with his harsh, strong 
voice. 

"The English are great fighters," he said. "They 
are brave. But they are stupid. No, that is inaccur- 
ate. They like to seem stupid and they have pre- 
tended so long and so well that the appearance is al- 
most as good as a reality. To be efficient in England 
is to be bad form — ^not quite the gentleman. It shows 
too much eagerness — too much interest The Eng- 
lish people like to bungle a thing two or three times 



176 TOWARDS MORNING 

just to show that they don't really care. Then they 
put their back into it When they've won they say, 
'You see — ^we can't help winning when we try.' Of 
course, it's expensive, but then that just emphasises 
the inexhaustibility of their wealth." 

"If they blunder against us ^" von Schonau put 

in. 

The Colonel smiled. 

''Exactly. Then that will be rather different That 
will be very expensive indeed. Very painful even." 

"Nevertheless, they are to be taken seriously. They 
are sportsmen." 

"And we are in deadly earnest One cannot be 
both. To be a sportsman one must be sufficiently 
detached to see the other side of the argmnent. In 
war one must be passionate. War is not a game." 

"They are tough," von Schonau persisted. 

"So are we. They don't think so. They think they 
are the only people who can be defeated without being 
broken. They are mistaken. So much the worse for 
them." 

It will be a bitter struggle." 

'Undoubtedly. For them it is life or death — for 
us it is a question of now or later." 

The Major lifted his liqueur glass. 

"Well, may it be soon — ^before they push me on to 
the scrap heap!" he said twinkling good-hiunouredly. 

"Like poor Leiprandt," von Theobald remarked. 
"He sent in his papers last night — he cried like a 
child." 

"He was only a child," Miiller said quietly. He 
still leant forward a little, his hands clasped as though 
he were fighting for self possession. His eyes spar- 
kled and there was a feverish colour in his cheeks. 






TOWARDS MORNING 177 

Across the table von Steuban watched him, smiling 
faintly and steadily so that his lean face was like a 
mask. 

"He did the only possible thing," he said. 

"Why ?" MuUer flashed out. "What was his crime ? 
A delirious soldier struck him? Was that his fault? 
Why should his whole career be blasted *' 

"The Herr Kamerad is very full of whys to-night/* 
von Steuban interrupted amusedly. "One might al- 
most imagine oneself in the Reichstag listening to a 
Socialist interpolation. True, the blow was not Leip- 
randt's fault — ^though a more experienced officer might 
have prevented it. But the blow having been dealt he 
had only one course open to him — ^he had to punish 
instantly — effectively. He should have run the fellow 
through " 

"A madman? Damnable!" 

"Ah, you think so? Yet the King's regulations are 
explicit on that point — ^Leiprandt failed to protect his 
uniform and his honour." 

"An honour that is so easily insulted is no honour 
at all." 

A ripple of movement passed down the length of 
the table. An undercurrent, invisible on the flat sur- 
face of their boredom and discontent, had none the 
less been carrying them forward to the edge of a 
cataract. Sub-consciously at least, they had felt this 
moment coming. They stiffened to meet it, turning 
their imperturbable faces to the two men who waited 
on each other's move in unmasked antagonism. And 
in their attitude there was something prepared, ex- 
pectant, almost eager. 

"One would think our friend had been studying 



178 TOWARDS MORNING 

Bebel/' von Steuban murmured. ''If one could think 
such a thing of a Prussian officer." 

"Meine Herren — meine Herren r 

But for once the harsh voice carried no authority. 
Lieutenant Mtiller had not moved. He ^x)ke quietly 
— ^very distinctly. 

"I did not surrender my intelligence or my con- 
science when I put on the King's coat," he said. "I 
say it would have been damnable to have killed a sick, 
exasperated man. A law which insists on such an 
act is a bad law." Perhaps he knew then — suddenly — 
that they were prepared. He looked about him, meet- 
ing their expressionless, unflinching stare with a flash 
of understanding. "Ah!" he said under his breath. 

And now von Steuban moved. He had been hover- 
ing — ^waiting. He dropped like a hawk. 

"Then in your opinion, Herr Kamerad, the life 
of a swine of a Socialist is worth more than the 
honour of your regiment?" 

"I respect life more than a fetich." 

"Ah, our uniform is a fetich ? Is the Herr Kamerad 
sure that the fetich fits him?" 

Their voices were hushed and yet in the tense still- 
ness they sounded over-loud — ^brutal. Von Steuban 
waited. The young man opposite him had turned 
white to the lips but he had not flinched. So they 
remained facing each other for an intermmable min- 
ute. , 

' You meant that, Herr von Steuban ?" 

1 have said nothing that I regret." 

"Von Theobald, will you act for me?" 

The good-looking captain assented courteously. 

"But with pleasure." 

Miiller rose. He stood for a moment in his place^ 






TOWARDS MORNING 179 

very straight and slender in the close-fitting uniform. 

His face was faintly flushed again, but pinched and 

old looking. 

"With your permission, Herr Oberst." 

He bowed and they bowed back to him, gravely, 

ceremoniously. Helmut held the door open and he 

passed out, leaving behind him an unbroken silence. 



An orderly caught Helmut up as he went down the 
servants' steps of the Casino. 

"The Herr Leutnant Miiller says you're to drive 
out with me in the Krumper-Wagen," he panted, "to- 
morrow morning at daybreak — seven o'clock." 

Helmut nodded dully. 

"All right." 

"You can come round half an hour before and help 
me harness up," the man added with a wink. 

"Yes— yes— I'll come." 

But he hardly knew that he had spoken. He was 
listening to a voice that said over and over again : 

"And we'll get our little Miiller out soon — freeze 
him out— or kick him out — somehow — you'U see I" 



III 

And so, when the first grey light broke over the dis- 
tant hills, the ramshackle old Krumper-Wagen with its 
occupants rattled over the cobbles of the Kaseme Hof 
and two tired sentries presented arms. A few min- 
utes more and the little town was rubbing its sleepy 
eyes behind them and they were out in the open coim- 
try. 



i8o TOWARDS MORNING 

It had been raining in the night but now the grey 
mantle of clouds was wearing thin. In the air there 
was a keen sweetness — a breath of spring blew over 
the furrowed fields. 

Helmut sat on the box beside the orderly. The 
carriage was open and in his mind's eye he saw the 
lieutenant, wrapped in his long military cloak with 
his two companions facing him. He could hear their 
voices — calm and untroubled — the casual everyday 
comments — ^as though nothing had happened — as 
though nothing ever could happen. 

The Zigeuner-Wald lay ^bout a mile outside the 
town. Helmut knew it well. A clearing had been 
cut through its heart and twice a week they were 
marched out there for musketry practice. Although 
it was quite small and insignificant, to Helmut it had 
always seemed the most beautiful wood in the world. 
When he had first seen it it had been a green pool in 
the hot ugly plain and be had run into it like a thirsty 
desert-wanderer, drinking its shadow gratefully. 
Then the autumn had come and burnished it to a 
bronze shield. He remembered the pungent flavour of 
decay — ^the mellow tang in the mists that had hung 
over the golden floor. And now in the last days of 
winter only the fir-trees remained clothed in their old 
dress. They stood out sombrely — sl little plebeian — 
amidst the austere loveliness of barren branches. 

Another carriage had arrived before them and a 
group of men waited at the foot of a great beech 
tree. They stopped talking as the newcomers alighted 
and two of them detached themselves from the rest 
and came forward, saluting. 

Leutnant Miiller's companions advanced to meet 
them and they stood together in calm consultation. 



€€ 



TOWARDS MORNING i8i 

Presently both parties returned to their places. The 
lieutenant slipped off his cloak and tossed it into the 
carriage. He wore a grey Letewka and the short, 
close-fitting jacket made him look even younger. 

He nodded to the soldier on the box. 
Tou won't forget, Johann?" 

'Ach, nein, nein, Herr Leutnant — ^but God for- 
bid " 

He smiled at both of them. His blue eyes lin- 
gered rather sadly on Helmut and for a moment 
he seemed about to speak but he said nothing and 
turned and joined his companions. 

It was very still. Yet when one listened every 
now and then a sound fluttered up — ^the soft jingle of 
harness, the thud of an impatient hoof, the cracking 
of a twig under some mysterious tread. The mois- 
ture from the overhanging branches dripped with a 
silver-toned splash on to the dead leaves. A pale 
rain-washed sunlight shone behind the grey fretwork. 
It painted the stark stems of the trees with luminous 
colour. One saw for the first time that the sap was 
rising. 

There was life in the stillness — ^the first stirrings of 
a sleeper. 

The orderly moaned to himself. 

^'Oh, Gott, oh, Gott — if it is only not my young 

gentleman — so'ne brave junge Herr " The thick 

tears rolled down his cheeks and he rubbed them away 
shame-facedly with his rough red hand. "He is so 
good to me. And look here — ^he gave me a letter — 
before we set out — to me — as though I had been a 
friend. He might have given it to a brother-officer, 
but no^'Johann/ he said, 'Johsinn, you'll post this if 



i82 TOWARDS MORNING 

it's necessary. It's to my mother/ Look, here it is. 
I carry it in my tunic." 

Helmut glanced at the inscription. "To the Frau 
Doktor Miiller." He thought — "If we had lived in 
the same town my mother might have known her. 
They might have talked together about their sons and 
of the plans they were making for them." 

He began to imagine what she was like. Grey- 
haired and little, grown hard, perhaps, with life, like 
his mother. Or happy and pretty. Yes, surely the 
mother of the lieutenant would be happy and pretty — 
and proud too that her son should be an officer in the 
45th amongst such fine people. She was asleep now, 
dreaming no evil, not knowing what the fine people 
were doing to her son. 

The orderly gripped his arm so that his fingers 
met through the flesh. An instinct must have warned 
him for a full minute passed before the thud fell. 
They sat rigid, staring blindly. And now there was 
no other sound in the whole world. A second thud 
came — ^after an eternity of time, and it was quite dif- 
ferent. It was deliberate — ominous. It echoed inter- 
minably. 

''Oh, Gott, oh, Gott, my young gentleman — my poor 
young gentleman." 

Suddenly Helmut noticed a tiny sparkle of green 
amidst the dead leaves. In a few weeks the children 
would come here and gather Maiglockchen. He re- 
membered how he and his mother and father, and 
Heini and Schnautzchen had gone out to gather Maig- 
lockchen and how his father had explained things to 
him. 

"You see, the sap is like our blood." 

Two officers strolled out from among the trees, they 



TOWARDS MORNING 183 

were still talking calmly. One of them motioned to 
Helmut and his companion and they jumped down 
and began to close the carriage. 

Helmut knew then. 

But he had known from the beginning. 

And presently two more officers followed and they 
carried the lieutenant between them. Behind at a dis- 
creet distance walked von Steuban with his friends 
and the regimental doctor. They too, were talking. 
It was as though they had come back from a day's 
sport. 

Helmut saw the lieutenant before they laid him back 
amongst the cushions. He was pale but very un- 
troubled. There was a little round hole in the middle 
of his forehead. 

His comrades stood together for a moment. 

"He fired high— deUberately." 

"That was his affair." 

"I shall report myself at once at headquarters," 
von Steuban said. 

Von Theobald bowed. 

"You will permit me to accompany you. As Herr 
Leutnant Muller's second, I should like to assure the 
court that the proceedings were perfectly in order." 

''Tadelosr 

"In every respect." 

They saluted each other in mutual congratulation. 

And so they drove the lieutenant home. The Krum- 
per-Wagen bumped and rattled over the cobbles. It 
was a disgraceful old bone-shaker and they drove with 
painful caution as though in its dark recess some one 
were asleep. 

And Johann cried. The tears splashed on to his 
tunic and made big stains on the blue cloth. 



184 TOWARDS MORNING 

But Helmut did not cry. 

His eyes were empty — stupid-looking. 



IV 

There were five of them, with the red-faced sol- 
dier in charge, and they had reached a squalid, tight- 
lipped house on the outskirts of the town when Hel- 
mut overtook them. He had been running. His eyes 
were red-rimmed and blood-shot, and his breath came 
in hard jerks. It was as though he had been trying to 
escape from some one. 

"Wait ! Wait !" he shouted at them. 

They stopped, considering him with dislike and dis- 
trust. 

"Well, what do you want anyhow ?" 

"I — I saw you going along — I wanted — I thought — 
p'r'aps you'd let me come with you — I'd like to come." 

"Oh, yes, and spy things out and sneak on us." 

"No— of course not — I wouldn't — I swear it." 
'You were too damn superior to come before." 
1 know — I was a silly fool — I didn't r^lise — ^the 
fact is — it's — it's so lonely — I can't stand being alone 
any more — I can't — I can't," 

His voice was high and strained. It made them 
laugh. 

"Well, we don't want any gentleman spoil-sports 
and pie- faces." 

He came close to them. He winked. There was 
something horrible and pitiful about it — like a child 
copjring an obscene gesture that it does not under- 
stand. 

"I'm not a gentleman— or a pie-face. I'll prove 
it I'll show you. Only I'm not going to be alone 






TOWARDS MORNING 185 

any more — ^won't. Only let me come too. Look here 
— Fve got some money — I'll stand treat — anything 
you like — ^the whole lot of you." 

They grinned back at him, their spite against him 
gratified, not disarmed. They were equals now — 
more than equals — for he was cringing to them. 

"Well, you've changed your tune and no mis- 
take." 

"Yes — I know — I've told you — I'm sorry." 

The door of the secretive-looking house had opened 
like a mouth and an evil breath struck into the clean 
air, carrying with it a hoarse murmur of voices — ^a 
woman's high, hysterical giggle — the scraping of a 
violin. 

"Want to be one of us — eh?" 

"Ye&— that's it — not alone." 

The red-faced soldier slapped him on the shoulder 
Winking triumphantly. 

"Well — come on then — show what you can do, com- 
rade." 

They pushed into the dirty passage arm in arm 
and the rest followed, laughing and nudging one 
another. 



PART III 



CHAPTER I 



Herr Walther von Stolzing stood on the flower- 
strewn hillock and sang. 

Sweeter and richer, quickening in the exultancy of 
love and youth the pure tenor poured out into the 
entranced stillness. Hans Sachs with happy Evechen 
on his arm and all the sturdy mastersingers of Nurem- 
berg listened from their raised pavilion. And 
mediaeval Germany, gay and multi-coloured as a rain- 
bow stood about them, a-dream, their banners furled 
in the quiet air, the deep under-current of the violins 
seeming to sing their hearts' accompaniment — ^hushed 
as yet, but rising like a tide. 

Away in the distance the red towers of Nurem- 
berg looked down upon the meadow scene — charm- 
ingly sinister — an ogre castle in a fairy-tale. 

'' Huldreichster Tag 
Dem ich aus Dichters Trautn erwachi." 

Faces shone palely, phosphorescently through the 
twilight — row upon row, tier upon tier, up into the 
deep night of the galleries where their white glow 
faded and went out into blank shadow. There were 
masks, blurred, one like another — ^terrible in their 
simplicity. 

187 



i88 TOWARDS MORNING 

A young soldier sat in the far comer of the second 
gallery. He held his face between his rough red 
hands and drew his breath deeply like a released pris- 
oner drinking in the first sun-warmed air of free- 
dom. 

*'Durch Sanges Sieg gewonnen 
Pamass und Parodies/' 

'And now the tide had risen to their lips. Dream- 
ingly, unconscious of itself the great chorus swept into 
the open, hushing its own strength, following the 
singer from afar to the last height. A wind arose 
and the banners fluttered out. It was as though sud- 
denly all the joy and youth and springtime of the 
world were in their song. 

The young soldier hid his face in his arms. 

When he looked up again the crowd had fallen 
silent. A new voice sang to them — a new, more won- 
derful song. It was Hans Sachs. He stood alone on 
the top step of the pavilion — ^massive, rough-hewn as 
a rock — towering above them all. The glitter and 
gleam of colour faded before his grey simplicity. The 
victorious Stolzing was like a pretty gilded puppet 

''Habt achtl Uns drohen uble Streichr 

The baritone was a man's voice calling through the 
song of children. Its mellowness was velvet over steel. 
And in the music, love and springtime gave place to 
something valorous and sober and splendid — b, proud 
warning — a call to high endeavour. The lyric sweet- 
ness of the Preislied came again but now it was 
rh3rthmed to the strong disciplined swing of a march- 
ing people. 



TOWARDS MORNING 189 

" — und walschen Dunst mit wdlschen Tand 
Sie pHansen uns in's deutsche Land. 
Was deutsch und dcht wiisst keiner mehr 
Lebts nicht in deutscher Meister Ehrt 



%f> 



As though he could bear no more the young soldier 
stood up— and strangely, terribly the man beside him 
stood up with him — ^and then the whole theatre. 

In ateolute silence they stood there to the end, their 
white faces gleaming through the dusk. 

When the curtain fell upon the last joyous, exultant 
scene, there was still no sound. No hand beat ap- 
plause. Men turned away from one another, groping 
blindly. 

n 

Helmut lingered on the steps of the vestibule. The 
spell of silence had broken. The crowds pouring 
out from the Parterre-Logen eddied uncertainly, break- 
ing into disjointed speech. But the deeper spell re- 
mained. They were like people moving in a dream. 

An infantry lieutenant, slender and tall in his dark 
blue coat, stopped for a minute under the light He 
laughed, playing the indifferent, but his eyes shone 
and the hand resting on the sword-hilt was strained 
bloodless. And in a flash of memory Helmut saw 
him toss up the yellow cap of the Quinta and heard 
him send his boyish shout to the heavens. 

"Long life to our dear Lord God — ^long life to 
himl" 

But Leutnant von Prutwitz did not look at the 
infantry soldier who stood stiff and expressionless as 
he passed. He caught his companion by the arm in 
an irrepressible burst of feeling. 



I90 TOWARDS MORNING 



"The luck of it ! Think of it really coming in our 
time/' 

Old Doctor Roth hoU)Ied out on his wife's arm. 
Rheumati^n plagued him but he gesticulated with a 
youthful fire. He glared at Helmut unseeingly, his 
eyes two points of white-hot passion. 

"Yes — ^I am a doctor — ^a man of healing — but if 
ever one of these treacherous English fall into my 
hands — ^well, God help me to remember my duty — 
for I shall be sorely tempted." 

"It doesn't matter what one does to the English," 
his wife said, heavily excited. "They are devils." 

"They and their precious treaties! Much they care 
for treaties when it suits them." 

It seemed to Helmut that all his boyhood passed 
him by — changed, deeply, painfully familiar. There 
was the Geheimrat grown stouter, carrying the mas- 
sive shoulders more processionally than ever, the big 
black moustache turned grey. He forced his passage 
through the crowd, like a big liner through a shoal of 
fishing-boats, the lean Geheimratin struggling in the 
back-wash. His voice boomed over the confusion. 

"Kurt had his marching orders a week ago." 

He jostled Helmut indifferently. Even if he had 
recognised the figure in the clumsy infantry uniform 
he would not have spoken. He had Spartan notions 
of honour. There could be no common soldiers in his 
family. 

A tidy little man with spectacles seemed to spring 
up under the Geheimrat's shadow. Helmut remem- 
bered him quite well. He had a big Delicatessen shop 
at the comer of the Karlstrasse and Helmut and his 
mother had gone there every Thursday evening to 
buy their weekly supply of sausage. It was his son 



TOWARDS MORNING 191 

— ^the first tenor at the Miinchener Hoftheatre — who 
had sung Walther von Stolzing. 

"They are going to exempt him," he stammered 
in breathless excitement. "He wanted to volunteer 
but they wouldn't let him. 'A great artist' — ^they said 
— 'we must keep our great artists — a voice like 
that/ '' 

Some one interrupted passionately. 

"The French have dropped bombs on Nurem- 
berg.*' 

"Ah, if they do things like that — ^then we must all 
go— to the last man." 

"The Grand Duke is going to speak to the people 
from the balcony." 

"They don't know what they have conjured up — 
the treacherous devils — 2l whole people in arms — 
united from prince to peasant." 

"Germany — Germany." 

The man's voice broke on a sob. 

But now a fresh torrent of men and women poured 
down from the upper galleries and swept the eddy- 
ing circles before it The moment of doubt, of 
h^f-waking had passed. The dream had become a 
reality forever. 

And Helmut left his place on the steps and went 
with them, for a sudden terror possessed him lest 
they should go on and leave him* 

And he dared not be alone. 



in 



The flood carried him swiftly and surely and he 
forgot that he*had been afraid. Men pressed against 



192 TOWARDS MORNING 

him on every side, shoulder to shoulder, breast to 
breast. He felt their hot breath on his neck and 
cheek, their straining muscles, the heave of their pant- 
ing flanks. Their touch thrilled him. The very odour 
of their bodies intoxicated him. Suddenly he was not 
Helmut Felde any more but a monstrous Invincible. 

Against the sapphire of the feverish siunmer-night 
the round full-blown lime trees in the Schlossplatz 
painted a violet shadow. Between their branches the 
stars flickered like candles in the wind, coming and 
going as a faint breeze from the forest stirred the 
dust-laden, shrivelling leaves to an uneasy rustle. A 
fugitive scent of flowers hung above the stench and 
heat and tumult. 

Long ago when he had been a school-boy, Helmut 
had come out here from the theatre with music echo- 
ing in his heart and had wandered through this same 
perfumed dusk, almost happy, building up his broken 
dreams with youth's unconquerable hope, swearing big 
oaths to the same stars, feeling the foolish, exquisite 
tears rise as he stood beside the sleeping flowers. 

He had forgotten. All that was gone. He was 
not the same. He was a drop in a vast ocean — a 
particle of an immensity. He pressed forward, yield- 
ing to its pressure, gasping, sweating, his military 
cap at the back of his head, his mouth open, mum- 
bling broken, incoherent sentences. He did not know 
where he was trying to go. But there was no need for 
him to know. It knew. It would carry him whither 
it would — to his appointed place. He had no meaning 
if he were not of it — ^if he were to be at all he must go 
with it — if need be go down with it 

It swept the half -circle of the Schlossplatz to the 
central avenue. There with the muffled boom of an 



TOWARDS MORNING 193 

Atlantic wave thundering into some cavern it broke 
against a second phalanx coming from the town, and 
recoiled, baffled, tossing hither and thither in frantic 
vacillation. It had for that moment a terror of itself. 
It cotdd have danced a saturnalia of sheer panic But 
as it wavered a drum beat flashed over its black un- 
rest, the distant pipes wailed like the first breath of a 
coming storm and instantly the herd fell silent — ^as 
though its collective soul had heard the secret rallying 
cry for which it waited. 

Helmut lifted himself on the shoulders of the man 
in front of him. He saw the darkness fissured by two 
parallel lines of fire which came on steadily, relent- 
lessly. The flames of the torches streamed back like 
banners. Their scarlet glare danced wickedly on the 
set, blank faces of the men— on the fixed bayonets 
that flowed past in a glittering stream. The crowd 
gave way before them. It was orderly now — dis- 
ciplined, horribly controlled. Though it spread from 
wall to wall of the huge square it did not touch the 
flowers that slept in their dark beds. Though there 
were thieves and criminals in its midst it committed 
no excess. The will that governed it had no use for 
tumult — ^not yet for destruction. 

A man had come out on to the Palace balcony. He 
was a mere dot against the light and his voice was an 
empty sound to Helmut and those around him. Yet 
they stood motionless and hushed like men on the 
threshold of a cathedral. The High Priest who of- 
ficiated at the Altar was nothing. They did not 
need to hear his words. They knew that that which 
he held up for them to wor^ip was a Holy and a 
Mighty Thing. 

The voice faded. They answered it — ^three times 



194 TOWARDS MORNING 

with the thunder shocks of a mighty hammer. Then 
they swung round. Like a regiment on Parade they 
formed into columns fifty deep and stormed past un- 
der the midget figure — singing. Their faces, lifted 
to the light, were fixed in a strange smile — ^in the 
exalted stare of pilgrims who have come at last to 
the heights of Pisgah — of disciples to whom their 
god has at last revealed himself. They were not 
drunken. They were terribly sober. They were not 
ruthless, not cruel, not pitiful. They were a volcanic 
force set free, a sea that has burst its dam, a thou- 
sand lava streams pouring into one channel — ^towards 
one end — 2, force horrific, unmoral, unaccountable. 
And that which stood against them must be destroyed. 
That was a natural law. 

Yet once at the far comer of the square the crowd 
slackened its headlong course. It seemed for a last 
time to be struggling convulsively, like a thing in 
agony, to resume its component parts, to break away 
from its own solidity. But it was too late. The 
fusion had been complete. For a moment longer the 
welded mass writhed — ^then rushed on again, going it 
knew not where, frenziedly resigned, singing from 
dry, red-hot throats its high-song of praise and sac- 
rifice. 

But in that brief welter and confusion, Helmut had 
been driven under a street-lamp and had seen the face 
of the man beside him. They had stared at each other, 
half-recognising, half-puzzled. Then Helmut had re- 
membered. The tawny beard had become streaked 
with grey; the clothes were more than ever fantastic 
and disorderly, the eyes pouched and red-rimmed as 
though with much suffering. But their sudden laugh- 
ter was like a light shining out in the midst of ruin and 



TOWARDS MORNING 195 

darkness. The old unquenchable humour was there, 
the whmisical pity — the wise kindliness. 

"Why— Helmut— little Helmut " He made a 

gallant effort to hold his ground, clinging to the lamp- 
post. But the tide caught him and tore him from his 
moorings. He turned, trjring to wave a greeting — 
a warning — Helmut could not tell. But he thought 
suddenly of a drowning man who flings up his hand 
for the last time out of a whirlpool. 

"Juggernaut — Helmutchen — ^Juggernaut." 

He must have shouted. It sounded like a whis- 
per. 

Then the tide swept them apart and in a moment 
Helmut had forgotten him. 

He pushed on, singing interminably. 



CHAPTER II 



They were all there — ^all except the Geheimrat and 
his wife. They had written to say that Kurt was 
home for the night on farewell leave and that much 
as he would have liked to have seen them he felt 
that, in the circumstances, it would be kinder and 
wiser to stay away. 

Kurt was lieutenant in the Yellow Dragoons. 

Every one knew that Gefrdte Helmut Felde was 
"the circumstances.*' 

But the others were there — ^all the poor relations — 
Tante Louise, the post-office official's widow, the 
cousins and their husbands and their children — ^two 
Backfische in the uniform of the St. Catherine's 
School who bobbed with military precision to their 
elders and overate themselves with stolid dignity. 

Frau Felde wore her new Tartan silk blouse and 
the Herr Amtschreiber, his frock-coat with the ribbon 
of the Order of the Red Eagle, fourth class, in the 
button-hole. 

Never before had the little dining-room seen such 
a feast. The white tablecloth was strewn with flow- 
ers — not recklessly, for every blossom had its proper 
space allotted to it and there was much eking out with 
green stuff, and in the midst were big plate-loads of 
Eier-Brotchen and even Kaviar-Brdtchen, and dishes 
of potato salad and a Gemischte Platter of gorgeous 

196 



TOWARDS MORNING 197 

creamy cakes. On the side-table stood a glass bowl 
full of fresh peaches, neatly sliced, into which the 
Herr Amtschreiber with all the solemnity of an of- 
ficiating High Priest had poured a whole bottle of 
Hochheimer and half a bottle of Sekt. 

Old Anna had been engaged for the evening. They 
called her old Anna because she seemed to have been 
with them all their lives and because they could not 
remember her as a girl. She had always had that 
patient look of knowledge — ^she had never moved 
quickly and lightly. Now much child-bearing and 
much sorrow had left her slower and heavier than 
ever. And even the pathos of her dark eyes had 
grown dim. 

She kept on running in and out of the kitchen where 
her first bom and idiot son mumbled over his share 
of the feast 

And when they drank Helmut's health in their half- 
glasses of Bowie, she cried. The tears rolled down 
her sunken cheeks and she did not trouble to wipe 
them away. It was as though they had come too 
often in her life for her to notice them. 

Helmut sat at the head of the table, opposite the 
Venetian glass. Constantly he caught glimpses of 
himself in its shining depths — eating, laughing, speak- 
ing, and each time he had a sense of pause, of dis- 
quiet, almost of anger. It was surely a stranger who 
sat there mimicking him — ^that bland young man with 
the sullen weather-tanned face and the raw red hands 
sticking lumpishly out of the military cuffs. 

He grew to hate the glass. It seemed to him that 
he had always hated it — that far back in his child- 
hood it had done something horrible to him — some- 
thing that he had forgotten. 



198 TOWARDS MORNING 

Tante Louise nodded. She was always nodding — 
mostly at the wrong moment. People who did not 
know that she suffered from the palsy were often dis- 
concerted by the nods and malicious winks that she 
threw at them. Now her wizened, monkey-face was 
twisted into a most humorous expression. 

"Yes," she said, "God has made us his instru- 
ment. We are the scourge with which He will chas- 
tise these wicked nations. The English arrogance has 
insulted Him long enough. And the French — ^well, 
one has only to read a French novel to know what they 
are — 2, decadent and frivolous people. It is a thou- 
sand pities that we were merciful to them — fifty years 
ago." 

"Well, it won't happen again," Herr Breithaupt, 
the bank cashier, declared jovially. "Hehnut will see 
to that, eh ?" 

They all looked at him. For the first time he 
counted in their eyes. He represented the thing they 
worshipped and trusted and he longed to say some- 
thing that would please them — that would make them 
believe in him still more. He laughed. The glass 
of weak Bowie could not have intoxicated him and 
yet he knew that he was drunk. His head whirled 
and throbbed and his blood pounded through his veins. 
He seemed to be growing bigger — ^to be cwelling up 
with heat and a senseless anger. 

'They won't get much quarter from meT he said. 
"I shan't take any prisoners." He lunged with his 
knife, giving it a professional twist. "I'll finish my 
man every time — ^like that." 

Tante Louise winked jovially at him. 

"That's right. We mustn't have any pity on them 
We mustn't have to punish them a third time." 



TOWARDS MORNING 199 

"And yet after all the French are not the worst/* 
Herr Breithaupt remarked broad-mindedly. "They 
are a silly light-headed people and the English are 
using them as their catspaw. It is the English who 
have done this." 

"They have been plotting this for fifty years." 

"Well, there's one thing — they have thrown down 
the mask at last Every one will know what they are. 
They will never be able to look honest men in the 
face again.*' 

"We got into this war with a clean conscience," the 
Herr Amtschreiber said gently. "However terrible it 
may be for us we shall be upheld by that knowl- 
edge." 

"Our good old German virtues won't fail us," the 
Bank Cashier agreed. "Did you see the people on 
the square last night ? Ah, that was something to re- 
member. The English would have been drunk to a 
man and the French would have been hysterical — 
but our people — ^sober, resolute, God-fearing — ^who 
will stand against them?" 

"And after all war is a wonderful thing," his 
brother-in-law, the notary, remarked thoughtfully. 
"It purges. It reveals our virtues of courage and 
endurance. Who knows if we too were not getting 
luxurious? It may be that God has sent this war to 
save us from the pitfalls into which other nations 
have fallen?" 

They were silent, nodding grave acquiescence. 
Frau Fdde looked up at Helmut. She had scarcely 
spoken. Now a spot of colour burnt in either cheek. 

"It gives people a chance," she said feverishly. "It 
shews what they are really made of. My grand- 
father served as volunteer in the ranks in 1870. He 






200 TOWARDS MORNING 

had never been a soldier because of his health. But 
all his officers were killed — and he led a charge — and 
they promoted him on the field" — she gave a nervous 
laugh — ^*'of course, he wasn't really a common sol- 
dier/' 

Of course not." The notary winked at HelmuL 
Well, Napoleon said every soldier carried a field- 
marshal's baton in his knapsack. Who knows what 
you'll do, young man?" 

Helmut had sat staring stupidly at his empty glass. 
Now he looked up, considering them each in turn with 
a sort of dazed truculency. 

"I'll do something big," he shouted, "or I won't 
come back." 

They banged the table with fists. 

"Bravo! Well spoken — like a true German!" 

"I'll get my chance this time," he persisted. 

The red, swollen-looking face in the glass scowled 
at him. If only he could get away from it — smash 
it. If only he could escape its tormenting unfamil- 
iarity. 

His mother leant across to him. She laid her 
hard, strong hand on his clenched one. 

"Dear Helmut!" 

He had never heard her speak like that before — 
with such tenderness — ^almost with reverence. 

Herr Breithaupt gave the signal for departure. 

"Well, we must be getting home. We've all got to 
get up early to-morrow to give our hero a farewell 
wave— come on, Mariechen." 

They stood waiting one behind another to shake 
hands with him. The little girls bobbed to him and 
their round eyes were full of awe. He did not have 
to shrink from them now. He could even treat them 



it 



TOWARDS MORNING 201 

indifferently. He had become the elect — the Chosen 
One among them. 

The notary patted him on the back. 

^^ 'Das Vaterland mag ruhig sein ^ " he quoted. 

When they had all gone the Herr Amtschreiber 
went back to his favourite place by the majolica stove. 
He put his hands against it absently, though it had not 
been lit for many months. 

Yes, now one knows why one has lived," he said. 
Sometimes when I liave been very tired I have asked 
myself what it was all for — whether it mattered — ^I 
had had so many hopes — ^and they'd all gone wrong. 
It seemed not worth while to try so hard. But now 
I see that it is because I — ^and all of us — ^have done 
our little piece of work faithfully — ^that we are strong 
enough to meet this onslaught. And you, too, Hel- 
mut — your turn is coming now — it has been hard for 
you, but you did your best; it hasn't been in vain, 
Helmut." 

Helmut did not answer. His mother had been 
gathering the dirty plates together. Now she looked 
up at him. There was a brooding smile in her pale 
eyes — a subdued exultation. 

"It is going to be a great and wonderful time," she 
said quietly. 

And suddenly he was sobered. He was afraid of 
her. He saw that she and her Ibve for him were 
terrible. 

n 

He looked in as he passed the kitchen on the way 
to his bed-room. He wanted Anna. He had never 
once thought of her all the time he had been away, 
but now a strange desire to be with her possessed 



202 TOWARDS MORNING 

him. It was a hunger — a pain like home-sickness. 
He had forgotten all she had told him about the 
fairies, but he did remember that she had understood 
him and played his games. Perhaps she would un- 
derstand now what the others could not understand — 
what he hardly imderstood himself. Perhaps he 
would be able to tell her. 

There was nothing splendid or proud or heroic 
about old Anna. She would not take his heroism for 
granted. He wouldn't have to say big things to her 
to impress her. Whatever he did would be right. 
Even if he put his head down on her lap and cried 
his heart out she would not be ashamed of him. 

He wanted the reassurance of her praise — the over- 
flowing measure of her admiration. 

But on the threshold of the little kitchen he stopped 
short. She knelt with her back towards him amidst 
the debris of the feast, her arms encircling the frail, 
hunched-up body of her son. She clung to him, si- 
lently, desperately, and the boy's head hung over her 
shotdder like the head of a broken flower. She did 
not move. But Helmut could see the muscles of her 
strong bare arms stand out in the frantic force of her 
embrace. 

Then suddenly, like an animal surprised, she sprang 
up facing him. 

"Herr Helmut!" 

"I — I came to say good-bye," he stammered. 

She seemed not to hear him. She tried to brush 
the lank, disordered hair out of her face. All the 
stoic patience was gone. There was something sav- 
age, insurgent in her bearing. 

"Herr Helmut — they won't — they can't take him — 
can they?" 



TOWARDS MORNING 203 

For a moment he did not understand. He had 
been thinking of himself. Then he threw an impa- 
tient glance at the poor imbecile face. 

"No— of course they won't. He's too young. Be- 
sides, he's not — ^he's not " 

"Not like the others." She nodded. "I'm glad— 
I'm glad." 

A dull anger stirred in his blood. 

"You oughtn't to be. You ought to be ashamed. 
You ought to want to give a son to the Fatherland." 

"But I don't — I don't — we — we suffer too much." 
She seemed to be struggling desperately to speak 
clearly — to make him understand. "Yes — we suffer 
too much, Herr Helmut All our fine young people — 
they take them away from us — who have had to bear 
so much for them. And we don't know why — we 
don't know anything — and they shout a lot of big 
words at us — and then it's all blood and killing and 
maiming — all the fine young people killing each other 
— for the sake of we don't know what. Ach, Hen- 
Helmut, I saw just now — ^you stabbed with your knife 
— and when you were a little boy you cried over the 
dead flowers " 

"Be quiet," he shouted at her. "War's different. 
War's splendid. One's got to fight for one's coun- 
try " 

She seemed to brush him on one side. 

"But they won't take my poor boy. They won't 
make him do cruel, horrible things. Because he's 
weak and foolish he won't have to kill people — other 
women's sons — and I'm glad — I'm glad God made 
him as He did." 

"You're a silly woman, Anna; you don't under- 
stand " 



204 TOWARDS MORNING 

She smiled at him — a strange smile, full of dis- 
traught wisdom. And all his love turned to hatred. 

Without a word he left her, slamming the door 
behind him. 



ni 

He lay in the narrow old bed against the wall — ^and 
suddenly the thought came to him that he might never 
sleep there again. Amidst the glamour and pride of 
the last days the fact that in all probability he was 
acclaiming his own death had not once touched his 
consciousness. AH that had not seemed to matter. 
His personality had been swamped. So long as It 
persisted Helmut Felde's life or death had no sig- 
nificance. 

Now lying there in the darkness and silence they 
became everything. The revolt against annihilation 
shook him like a storm. In measure as he seemed 
to be growing smaller and weaker and lonelier his 
passion for life grew. It became a frenzy — a megal- 
omania which reduced the world and its claims on 
him to shadows. 

"I can't — ^I can't " he repeated under his breath 

over and over again. "I can't " 

He began to make wild plans — how he would run 
away — escape to America — Switzerland. It was only 
two hours to the frontier. Or pretend to go mad — 
or injure himself so that they would have to give him 
something safe out of the fighting. A ruthless logic 
drove out his fanatic enthusiasm. 

"After all, what does it matter what happens if Fm 
killed? I shan't know — ^I shan't care." 

He saw himself lying on the battlefield — alive, 



TOWARDS MORNING 205 

smashed out of recognition — like a dog that he had 
seen run over by a motor. He saw himself just after 
a high explosive had blown him into atoms. He felt 
his brain burst up into flames — ^the gradual extinction 
— the nothingness. 

He had been shivering as if with cold. Now the 
sweat broke out over his rigid body. And it was not 
a dream — not a horrible freak of the imagination. It 
was a reality that might seize him to-morrow — no, not 
to-morrow. It was grotesque how the thought that 
he would be safe to-morrow — ^that he still had his 
breakfast and dinner to look forward to soothed him. 
Already his claims on life were dwindling. 

But at the back of his mind was the hope that 
somehow he might escape. 

A light shone under his door. He watched it — 
fascinated. It did not pass on — nor yet did it hesi- 
tate. It was the pause of some one quietly resolute. 
Then the door opened. 

She had taken off her blouse and skirt and the old 
red-flannel dressing-gown enclosed her short stout 
figure. But she was not ridiculous — ^not even com- 
monplace. The candle-light encircled her face in soft 
halo and behind the dull plainness of her features 
there was a force and strength that checked his in- 
voluntary exclamation. She came over to him. 

"Not asleep, Helmut?" 

"No, Mother." 

They looked at each other steadily. For a moment 
he had been on the verge of clinging to her, of chok- 
ing his terror in her arms— of claiming he knew not 
what strength and pity from her motherhood. The 
impulse died under her eyes. They too suffered — 
terribly — but it was not his suffering. 






206 TOWARDS MORNING 

"I have brought you something, Helmut/* She 
took his hand in her hard, cold one. "It's my great- 
grand-mother's iron wedding-ring — from the days 
when our poor Fatherland bled imder the heel of the 
tyrant They knew how to suffer — ^we've got to 
learn from them." 

"Yes, Mother." 
Wear it, Helmut" 
'Yes, Mother." 

He was like a child. He was not even frightened 
now. It was as though an inexorable destiny held 
him. 

His mother slipped the iron ring onto his little 
finger. He saw her mouth work in the effort to speak. 
He knew that she was trying to say something — 
something fundamental — from the very root of her 
Ufe. 

In a flash of inspiration he knew. 

"Mother — if I don't do anything big — for the 
Fatherland — ^you'd rather I didn't come back " 

Suddenly her face was composed — ^at peace. 

"Yes." 

He nodded. 

"All right" 

For a minute longer she looked at him. Then she 
bent down and kissed him on the forehead. 

"God bless you, Helmut." 

She took up her candle and went out quietly as she 
had come. 

IV 

And in the first hours of the hot August morning 
he marched out with his regiment And the crowd 



TOWARDS MORNING 207 

marched with them and the women strewed flowers 
before them. 

Their helmets were wreathed in flowers. 

At the comer of the Karlstrasse, Helmut's people 
waited. They waved to him. His mother's face was 
almost beautiful. But he could not see old Amia 
an)rwhere. 



CHAPTER III 



He heard it for the first time from the loft of a 
frontier village inn. There were twenty of them 
lying on the bare boards and to find room they had 
to arrange themselves in an exact circle with their feet 
towards the centre. 

It was pitch dark save for the occasional splutter- 
ing flare of a match or the steady glow of a pipe. 
Then the veil thinned and a dim, spectral face peered 
through. 

Veit Thomas did all the talking. When the others 
interrupted he overbore them with his slow, heavy 
voice. 

"They've betrayed us," he said. "They had prom- 
ised — then they let the French through. They sold 
themselves. But they'll be sorry for it. Just wait. 
We're a slow people. I know what I'll do when I get 
among them." 

"And I." 

"No quarter, eh?" 

"Not for a single man." 

"And the women ?" 

A calm voice broke through the half -smothered 
sniggering. 

"We Germans don't make war on women." 

Veit Thomas boomed angrily. 

"No. But when they make war on us? And they 

208 



TOWARDS MORNING 209 

do. Look here. A patrol of our men went ahead 
to reconnoitre a village. And the women shot at 
them from the windows — ^picked them off like game. 
Then they came out and gouged out the eyes of the 
wounded." 

"Who told you that?"" 

"The Feldwebel told me. It's official. They want 
us to know so that we can look after ourselves.*' 

A low growl, like that of a partially roused beast, 
answered him. 

"We'll do that, all right. If they do things of that 
sort we'll know how to manage." 

Helmut had taken no part in the talk. He lay 
with his head on his haversack, half dreaming, half 
waking. His thoughts wandered off into dreams and 
then suddenly his dreams would break off and tum- 
ble him back into reality. He was bitterly weary. 
Forty-eight hours in a cattle-truck and a slogging 
ten hours' march had tried even his hardened young 
muscles. But he was not unhappy. Every time the 
cattle-truck had come to a station women had poured 
onto the platform with flowers and good things to 
eat. When they had marched through a village the 
people had greeted them, with tears and smiles of 
gratitude and pride. It had been music and glory 
and triumph all the way. 

When he closed his eyes he saw his mother's face. 
Through the murmur of his companions' voices he 
heard the perpetual singing: 

^'Germany — Germany before all" 

No, war wasn't evil — ^not even terrible. It was 
splendid. 



"] 

"] 
"] 



210 TOWARDS MORNING 

Abruptly he sat up. He did not quite know what 
had startled him. It had been nodiing immediate, 
but it had struck at the very vitals of his consdoas- 
ness. It was not so much a sound as a vibratioi> 
shaking the very foundations of his soul. 
Even Veit Thomas was silent. 
'Did you hear that?" 

'Somebody must have fallen down upstairs." 
^But there isn't an upstairs." 
"Hark — ^there it is again." 
'A long way off." 
Bump— bump — ^bump— bump ! 
Somebody spoke in a queer, choking whisper. 
"The guns!" 

Thereafter they sat silent, listening, staring into 
the darkness. 

II 

They came nearer to it. And gradually its character 
changed. It grew venomous — shrill. They began to 
associate it with innocent white puffs of cloud — ^with 
earth flung up as if by the spade of a giant — not yet 
with death. 

"They're not aiming at us," Veit Thomas would 
say. 

So their first fear died down. Because their own 
death was not immediate it ceased to be realisable. 
They grew accustomed and indifferent. They made 
jokes and gave the various forms of destruction nick- 
names. That the next day might find them out did 
not matter. To-day had passed them by. 

A week after that first initiation they knew that 
their time had come. No one had told them. They 



TOWARDS MORNING 211 

felt it in their nerves, they read it in the faces of 
their officers. The very guns chanted it to them. At 
each outbreak of their infernal dhorus the men stole 
quick, uneasy glances skywards. Their jokes failed. 
Only Veit Thomas shook his head obstinately. 

"Well, they haven't got our range, anyhow," he 
muttered. 

At nightfall they made way for other troops, halt- 
ing along the side of a sunken road whilst company 
after company of infantry with fixed bayonets poured 
past them through the twilight. Except for the dust- 
muffled thud of their feet, they made no sound. There 
was no singing — ^no talking. The officers urged 
them forward with gestures. They were shadows 
hurrying into the unknown. 

"They are going to the assault," Veit Thomas whis- 
pered. "We're the reserve — the tenth wave. But it 
isn't likely they'll want us. The Belgians run like 
hares when they see our bayonets. Liittich falls to- 
morrow — they say so." 

'And the attack?" Helmut whispered back. 

'Just before day-break." 

So it had come at last. 

The light faded. Calmly and beautifully the night 
gathered over the earth. The men in the sunken road 
huddled closer to one another. For the beauty and 
quiet troubled them. They would have welcomed an 
outbreak of a tempest. They suffered dumbly be* 
cause they could not drag the firmament down into 
their wretchedness. There had been at least splen- 
dour in their daylight hell. Now the minute and dis- 
tant stars had a majesty that made the bursting 
shrapnel overhead no more than the destructiveness 
of an angry child. 









212 TOWARDS MORNING 

At first they talked — spasmodically, in undertones 
— ^but as the hours wore on their voices faltered and 
died away. A man would begin a sentence and break 
off, as a shell ripped the sky overhead, to listen. In 
the end they only listened. It was as though by lis- 
tening they could escape — ^as though, if for a moment 
they relaxed their vigilance, the infernal thing would 
fall upon them and destroy them. Only in a lull 
their tense muscles relaxed and they stirred, mutter- 
ingly. 

A hand laid itself on Helmut's arm. 
We've made it all," a voice whispe/ed in his ear, 
and it's got loose — and we can't control it any more 
— and it'll destroy us — ^all of us." 

Helmut nodded at the darkness. He did not know 
the voice, but it was young and eager and he would 
have been glad to answer. But he could not think. 
His whole being seemed to be concentrated on a 
stream of shells that went screeching past overhead 
like a flight of evil birds. When they had gone he 
drew his breath. He calculated it would be a minute 
before others came — ^a minute precious as life, sweet 
as relief from pain. 

"It's queer, sitting here and waiting," the voice 
went on — "just waiting to kill or be killed. I'm 
glad our people don't know — aren't you? I've got a 
sister — and she worries. If she saw me now " 

"That one was nearer — one felt the earth shake," 
Helmut muttered between his teeth. 

"To-morrow — at day-break " the voice whis- 
pered. "Isn't that what they said?" 

"Yes — ^unless they break through at the first as- 
sault. And they're sure to — they can't fail." Hith- 
erto he had been hardly conscious of his companion's 



TOWARDS MORNING 213 

personality. It had been like the voice of an inner 
self. Now something touched him to self-forgetful- 
ness. 

"Are you frightened, too?** he asked. 

"I — I don't know. Yes — I am — ^but I don't know 
what of. It's not of dying. I keep on thinking — out 
there somewhere there's some one whom I'm going 
to kill — or who has got to kill me. And we've never 
seen each other. We don't know — ^and all the time 
we're getting nearer and nearer. And then suddenly 
it will be done. We can't help it — and that's what 
frightens me. We can't help it — ^we're driven." He 
paused, and Helmut felt that the unknown face quiv- 
ered. "I've never killed anything — not even a kitten. 
I couldn't. My sister says that once I've killed some 
one I shall never be the same again — that one can't 
• do cruel things and go on minding. Do you think 
that's so, comrade ?" 

"One doesn't do cruel things," Helmut answered 
impatiently. "One fights for one's home — one's coun- 
try. That's duty. Killing some one in fair fight isn't 
cruel — it's splendid — just as being killed oneself is the 
most splendid thing of all. My mother was proud 
when I went " 

A sigh fluttered up through the darkness. 

"Yes. My sister is good and beautiful. But she 
is a strange girl. She has thoughts of her own. She 
does not think like other people. They are angry 
with her in our village because of the things she 
says." 

"Some women are like that," Helmut muttered. 
"They don't understand. They don't care about hon- 
our and glory. They don't see how splendid it is to 
be able to do fine, manly things — ^to be able to kill 



214 TOWARDS MORNING 

your enemy — I had an old nurse like that. She didn't 
care a bit about our country. She only thought of 

her idiot son " He broke off abruptly. "It's 

getting light," he whispered. "Surely it can't be " 

Dread overwhelmed him. Only a few minutes 
ago they had had the whole night before them. Now 
the night was gone. He tried not to believe it. But 
where there had been formless darkness there were 
now shapes — ^blurred — dimly moving. He could dis- 
cern the outline of the figure huddled beside him. 

"Comrade — ^my name is Hans — ^Hans Hildebrandt 
— ^my sister lives up there in Embach — if anything 
happened — if you write " 

"Yes— yes " 

"Thank you." He gave a little shaky laugh. "Per- 
haps, after all — I shan't kill any one — I think if I 
didn't she would be glad to know " 

He stopped, with a painful catch of the breath. 
For suddenly the bombardment had ceased. The si- 
lence stunned them. It was ominous — more threat- 
ening than all the tumult. Their hearts turned to 
water. It was as though they had been cast headlong 
into a frightful emptiness. 

The hush lasted a full minute. Then came the 
mean, malicious rat-a-tat-tat-tat of machine guns. 

"Now," Veit Thomas whispered chokingly. 
"Now " 

They waited — ^stiff, motionless, with wide-open, 
sightless eyes. Hours seemed to pass in that waiting. 
Then through the twilight men began to appear. They 
came singly — in couples — ^anyhow. Four of them 
carried something shapeless and inert between them. 
The procession went on and on — ^silent, ghostly, end- 
less. 



TOWARDS MORNING 215 

And those crouching against the embankment 
watched them with a dumb questioning. 

"Where have you come from — ^what do you know 
now ?'* 

They received no answer. The blank-faced shad- 
ows did not even look at them. They had a strange 
air of aloofness and indifference, as though that which 
they had seen separated them from the rest of man- 
kind — ^as though nothing could ever really matter to 
them again. 

The boy at Helmut's side spoke to him, but now 
he could not even listen. He tried vainly to steady 
himself — even to pray — ^but the very words jumbled 
themselves to grotesque meaninglessness. He tried to 
think of his people — of Germany — of all the glory 
which had seemed so much and which was now noth- 
ing. His soul dwindled in him. He was nothing but 
an animal— a body cowering in mortal terror. 

Yet when a whistle sounded he got up. He did 
the impossible — ^and strangely enough he knew that he 
could not help doing it. He turned his face to the 
Unknown as those others had done before him. He 
drove his quivering, revolting body along the road 
at the double. He sent it scrambling up the embank- 
ment out into the open. 

Von Steuban and an under officer ran at their 
heels. 

"Get on — get on with you 1" 

It looked so innocent. The soft rose of sunrise hid 
the scarred earth in a celestial radiance. The little 
mounds scattered close together over the fields boded 
no evil. They were quiet and peaceful as long-forgot- 
ten graves. Not till Helmut had stumbled, cursing 
frantically, over one of them did he understand. 



2i6 TOWARDS MORNING 

It was soft — ^boneless. It moved — it clung to him. 
He kicked himself free — ^and it gasped and dropped 
back inertly. He had then a lightning vision of that 
first procession that had passed them in the dusk — of 
those strong, straight young bodies— of those stem 
faces turned toward their destiny — ^this. 

But he fdt neither pity nor horror nor even fear. 
Suddenly he had become excited, glorified. He was 
happier than he had ever been. He had broken 
through a fog into the full splendour of life. This 
was the splendour of life — ^to meet death — ^to go out 
and meet death willingly, of one's own choice — ^in the 
prime of one's strength and manhood. 

But underneath the exaltation something was stir- 
ring — ^uncoiling itself — ^lifting a sinister listening head. 

Men fell on either hand. They fell very quietly — 
with an awful simplicity. No one heeded them. The 
line closed up. Singing frenziedly, they staggered on 
towards the wavering line of smoke fifty yards ahead. 
The air whistled with death and it was like the music 
of a tarantella. 

Helmut began to run. He trod on those who had 
gone before him. He was indifferent to them except 
that they made him angry. A rage was mounting in 
his blood — 2L wolfish hunger to come at last face to 
face with this invisible enemy — ^to hold him and stab 
him and crush him under foot. 

They reached their first objective — ^an open trench 
evacuated by the defenders in the first assault. The 
ten waves had come thus far and here they had 
broken. But they served faithfully— even now. Their 
twisted, mangled bodies lay heaped one upon another 
— ^they filled the trench almost to the brink. 

The eleventh wave had cmly to run across. 



TOWARDS MORNING 217 

Helmut's boot crashed into an upturned, staring 
face. 

"Germany — Germany — Germany — ^before all." 

He did not know whether he screamed or whispered 
it or whether it was only an echo in his own brain. 
At least he heard nothing else. It filled his senses. It 
was a sacred Mantra — hypnotic, numbing every pas- 
sion but the one. 

The last few yards passed in a whirl of darkness. 
He stumbled over some wire entanglement and fell. 
By the time he caught up with his companions the end 
was almost in sight. Only here and there a machine- 
gun sputtered up, like the last snarl of a mortally 
wounded animal. From somewhere out of sight came 
the click of steel — ^ stifled grunting and groaning. 

A handful of unarmed men came towards Helmut. 
They seemed to have sprung out of the bowels of the 
earth. They came running and stumbling, their hands 
above their heads, their grey faces full of a piteous 
eagerness. But the red rage had mounted to Helmut's 
brain. 

"No prisoners ! No prisoners !" 

And again he did not know — was it another's voice, 
or his own or the thought in his brain? 

It yras then the boy next him lurched, coughed, and 
rolled over. 

Helmut screamed. He jumped the fallen body and 
ran straight for the man nearest him. He saw his 
look of almost comic horror. 

It was amazing how easy it was — ^how sweet — ^like 
wine to a parched throat! The savage force of the 
lunge drove right through so that for an instant the 
man remained standing — ^gaping stupidly. Then he 
went down, suddenly — dragging the rifle out of Hel- 



2i8 TOWARDS MORNING 

mut's hold. He lay there, spread-eagled, pinned to 
the earth like some horribly tortured insect — wrig-- 
gling feebly. The eyes that met Helmut's were fixed 
forever in a puzzled, angerless surprise. 

Helmut saw that there were no prisoners. 

Veit Thomas stumbled up to him. 

"Well done, Felde; that was a fine stroke. Good 
thing you didn't want your biayonet for another, 
though. I've got my man, too— my first." 

He mopped himself with a red hand, reeling and 
swaggering like a dnmken butcher. 



CHAPTER IV 



He stood silent for a minute looking down on the 
prostrate soldier with a rather wry expression about 
the mouth. The young man was asleep. Like the rest 
of his companions, he had not even bothered to re- 
move his haversack, but had dropped where he stood 
on the dusty road-side and lay there motionless as a 
dead man. One hand clutching a rifle was flung out 
in a gesture of abandonment. His helmet had fallen 
back and showed the close-cropped flaxen hair, the 
young white forehead above the line of sunburn. The 
straight eyebrows and fair down on the gaunt cheeks 
shone golden in the sunlight. But even in sleep the 
mouth was too tight-pressed — ^unyouthful, hard. 
There was something marred and cruel in a face 
otherwise poignantly young and fine which caused 
the observer to mutter uncomfortably to himself and 
finally, as though he could bear the unconscious self- 
betrayal no more, to stir the sleeper with his foot. 

"Na— Hehnutchen!" 

The soldier grumbled, and, lifting himself on his 
elbow, blinked up sullenly. 

"Whafs the matter — can't you leave me alone? 
Why, it's Herr Heilig — I'm sorry. I didn't see— one 
looks so different." 

"That's true, my son. And no doubt one is dif- 
ferent. For there's a lot more in a uniform than 
meets the eye." 

319 



220 TOWARDS MORNING 

He laughed, not very joyously, and squatted down 
at his companion's side, moving his arms gymnasti- 
cally in an effort to restore the circulation. "By the 
way, it's Gefreite Heilig now, if you don't want to 
get into trouble. You didn't know I was a soldier, 
eh?" 

"No." 

"Well, nor did I. But now it looks as though I 
were. I'm one of the new draft. You must have 
been badly cut up there before Liittich." 

"Fifty per cent. ^" 

"Hm, they put up a big fight." 

"They had to. They knew the/d get no quar- 
ter." 

Heilig nodded. The pouchy, unhealthy eyes twin- 
kled pleasantly. 

"And quite right, too. The cheek of them — ^standing 
up to us. Positively blasphemous. One can't be too 
severe on that kind of thing, my son. How do you 
like killing people, Helmut ?" 

The boy smiled superiorly. 

"Oh, I don't know. The first one made me feel a 
bit queer. But I've got over that sort of silliness. 
One's only got to think of the things the/ve done — 
it's like killing vermin." 

"Quite. You always were a bit of a fire-eater. Do 
you remember that day in the Gymnasitun Hof when 
you went for Kurt Kohler — ^head down? Looking 
back on the episode, I can't help feeling you were a 
bit blasphemous yourself— defying authority and 
might like that. Well, you and Kohler are on the 
same side now. One grows wiser with the years, eh, 
Helmut?" 

His companion shot him a dull look of suspicion. 



TOWARDS MORNING 221 

*T[ don't know what you mean. Of course we're 
all on the same side. We're Germans. Those who 
aren't on our side are traitors." 

Heilig nodded gravely. 

"That's so. The moralists, my son, make a mis- 
take by supposing that choice must necessarily lie 
between right and wrong. It is not always quite so 
easy as that — not for ordinary mortals like myself. 
There are such things as conflicting moralities, Hel- 
mut, conflicting duties, though perhaps you have never 
met them." 

*T know my duty." 

'Tortunate young man! Well, I've spent many a 
bad quarter of an hour trying to discover mine. And 
even now I'm not sure " 

Helmut fidgeted irritably. 

"I tell you I don't understand all that talk. I don^t 
want to. I want to rest. I don't suppose we've got 
another five minutes." 

"And it's been a gruelling march. Well, you're 
young, and you haven't got a certain little something 
the matter with your inside to add to the natural joys 
of a ten hours' promenade. You see, it's not entirely 
for my soldierly qualities that I have been re-made a 
soldier. There are political Uriahs, my son, among 
this Chosen People, and they all go to the firing- 
line " 

Helmut appeared not to have heard. Throughout 
he had been morosely inattentive. Now he broke out 
with his concealed obsession. 

"It's the water," he stammered thickly. '*We 
emptied our water-bottles early, and since then we 
haven't been allowed to refill them. And we've 
passed rivers. They say we shan't get anything to 



222 TOWARDS MORNING 

drink till we get to the next village — that's ten miles 
away; and the dust — ^it makes one mad. They say 
they have poisoned everything." His blue, red- 
rimmed eyes were turned on Heilig with a deadly 
smiling ferocity. "When we get there — we'll make 
them drink first — ^and if there's anything wrong — by 
God — ^we'll wipe them off the earth — all of them !" 

Heilig did not answer immediately. When he spdce 
at last his tone was detached and careless. 

"Yes, thirst is damnable. It reduces one to an an- 
imal. And I'm no hero, God knows. A little while 
back it got too much for me. I felt if I didn't get 
something to drink I'd run amuck. So when we got 
to a stream I pretended I'd hurt my foot and fell out. 
Whilst I was bathing it and no one was looking I 
had a drink. It was a good long drink, Helmut. 
Well, perhaps the devil doesn't want me yet — or the 
poison is a slow one ^" 

He was silent, staring calmly in front of him. But 
the young man's hand had tightened on the stock of 
his rifle. Suddenly his face had grown red and swol- 
len-looking. 

"I tell you — ^I don't know what you're trying to 
get at, Herr Heilig. I don't want to. I want to be 
left alone. Just because you were decent to me when 
I was a silly kid — ^you don't need to make claims now. 
I remember — ^you weren't like the rest ; they said you 
made fun of things — serious things. Now you dis- 
obey orders and try to make out that our leaders tell 
lies. You're the sort we've been warned against — the 
sort that'll believe any one rather than their own peo- 
ple. And I won't listen — I want to be left alone." 

Heilig rose heavily to his feet. 

"You're well within your right, Helmut. I ought 



TOWARDS MORNING 223 

not to have disturbed you. But you were so absurdly 
like and unlike the little spit-fire who butted my pet 
abomination in the tummy that I could not resist. It's 
always a mistake to revive the past. Some people 
have a disconcerting way of growing up. You have 
grown up— quite a lot. But perhaps one day you 
will grow young again." He clicked his heels together 
and bowed very solemnly, though with twinkling eyes. 
In his ill-fitting uniform he made a comic figure — 
more than ever scare-crowish. "In that event, we 
may have another talk." He added gaily — "providing 
always that I am not dying invisibly of prussic-acid." 
Helmut made a sullen, threatening movement, but 
at that moment a whistle sounded. The inert bodies 
strewn along the wayside staggered to their feet and 
with a mocking affectation of terror, Gefreite Heilig 
shambled back to his company. 

n 

The days when men and womeil ran out to wel- 
come them were gone. They were not defenders and 
heroes any more. They were the detested enemy. 
And it was strange how bitter the change tasted. It 
was a constant irritant, a poison, fevering the blood, 
distorting the fancy. In the distance they would see 
figures toiling in the fields — ^when they came nearer 
the fields were empty. 

Life fled before them as before the plague. 

And they were childishly anxious to be cheered and 
welcomed — ^loved even. They took refuge from this 
incredible hatred in a jocose ferocity. 

"Aha, they're frightened of us. Good! We will 
give them something to be frightened about." 



224 TOWARDS MORNING 

Towards dusk at the end of that long, maddening 
day Helmut saw a child's face peering at them 
through the trees. It was a white mask of terror and 
contempt and curiosity. And suddenly Helmut lifted 
his rifle and took aim. He meant the threat in angry 
fun — ^he wanted to obliterate that absurd contempt in 
awe and terror. But the child did not move and his 
finger tightened on the trigger. 

A hand struck up the barrel of his rifle. 

"Steady, comrade." 

He laughed stupidly, like a man waking from a 
dream, and went on. 

m 

The Feldwebel with five armed men at his heels 
battered at the door and finally between them they 
kicked it into splinters. In the whole town not a light 
showed — ^not a soul moved. It might have been a 
place of the dead. But they knew that behind every 
door and shutter there were watching eyes and lis- 
tening ears. That lurking, invisible hatred played 
evilly on their nerves. They were good Germans, hon- 
est and sober, adorned with all the galaxy of German 
virtues, defending their sacred soil victoriously from 
an outrageous wrong, and this treacherous people hid 
from them — shrank from them. 

The Feldwebel muttered between his teeth. 

"They've good reason to hide, I'll swear. They^re 
up to some devilment. Wait — ^we'U hunt the rats 
out." 

They ran into the dark passage — ^Helmut at the 
Under-Officer's side. At the far end was another 
door and that too they burst open with their shoul- 



TOWARDS MORNING 225 

ders. It had not been locked, but their nerves de- 
manded action — violence. Somehow they had to as- 
sert themselves against that passive hostility. 

The low narrow kitchen was lit by a single candle. 
The flame threw a flickering brightness on the figure 
of a woman seated at the table. She was very old — 
so old that she seemed hardly human. Her body was 
bent double. Her hands lying inert and indifferent on 
the bare table were like the claws of a dead bird. But 
her eyes lived. They shone fierily from out of their 
sunken depths. They gave a fierce strength and 
meaning to the cotmtless lines that fretted the 
shrunken face. 

A girl stood close behind her — ^youth and age, de- 
cay and beauty in almost brutal juxtaposition. And 
there was a young man somewhere in the shadow. 
Neither of the three moved or spoke. They looked at 
the intruders with the same expression. It was a sort 
of blankness — z, veil drawn over an inexpressible 
loathing. 

The Feldwebel blustered. 

*What do you mean by not opening the door — 
what do you mean by all this tomfoolery? Do you 
think we Germans are going to be kept waiting on 
the door-steps like little dogs — by a dirty crew like 
you? You want teaching, my friends, and by God 
you'll have learnt something by the time I've finished 
with you." 

The girl shrugged her shoulders. Not a muscle of 
her face had moved. 

'We don't understand your language, Monsieur." 

Nor did they understand hers. Even Helmut, with 
his remnants from Gymnasium days, could make noth- 
ing of the patois. But her tone needed no transla- 



226 TOWARDS MORNING 

tion. It was an insult — the cut of a whip across their 
faces. 

The Feldwebel moderated his tone. It was like 
the self-restraint of a bull, who holds his ground for 
a minute before charging. 

'Took here — ^I don't want any of that infernal 
chattering. You know what I mean well enough. 
You haven't been trained and paid as spies for noth- 
ing. We have been ten hours without food or rest 
or drink and I warn you we're in no temper to be 
played with. If you treat us fairly, you've nothing to 
be afraid of; but if you play us any tricks, we'll have 
no mercy on man, woman or child. I'm here to 
quarter my men on you and see that they get food 
and rest without being poisoned or having their throats 
cut in their sleep, as has happened to some of our 
brave fellows." He strode across the room and filled 
a cup with water from the tap. "Now — ^to begin 
with — you drink that up, Miitterchen, and then we'll 
know where we are." 

The man was not wholly ill-natured. Some of his 
rage had begun to evaporate. He held the cup out 
to the old woman with a bluff laugh. "Come on — it's 
all right to drink our healths in cold water — ^it brings 
bad luck, they say." 

The old woman stared at him. Behind her mask a 
genuine puzzlement and uncertainty began to show it- 
self. It was as though she felt herself to be dealing 
with an incomprehensible and incalculable lunatic 
She shrank away from the proffered cup. 

"No, no, I do not understand — ^what do you want ?" 

The Feldwebel's face darkened. 

"Come— drink if you want to prove your good 
faith." 



TOWARDS MORNING 227 






^No— I tell you I do not understand." 
'Ah — ^you don't like your own medicine, eh ? But 
you shall drink it — we're running no risks here. If 
you've monkeyed with the wells " 

The five men came up close behind him. The sight 
of water — the thought that it might be snatched from 
them even now, incensed them to the point of frenzy. 
Hardly knowing what he did or what he wanted, 
Helmut caught the young girl by the arm. She tore 
herself free and at the same moment the young man 
came out of the shadow. The movement was enough. 
Helmut laughed. He seized the girl in his arms and 
kissed her. 

*TLeave my sister alone !" 

"Drink— drink— I tell you!" 

There was no soimd for an instant but that of their 
quick, hot breath. The girl and Helmut stared at 
each other. He had laughed. It had been an answer 
to a challenge — 3. good joke. But now he did not 
laugh any more. The girl wiped her cheek with the 
back of her hand. Her eyes narrowed. Then in an 
uncontrollable gust of loathing she spat at him. 

"Ah, you vixen — you " 

He sprang at her. The young man slipped between 
and they collided violently. 

"Drink— drink " 

The old woman, chattering in panic-stricken terror 
of what was coming, dashed the cup aside. 

In the same instant Helmut and the brother closed. 
They fell back against the table. It overturned, fling- 
ing them into a darkness which was lit by a vivid 
flash. The hands at Helmut's throat let go their 
hold. A body lurched against him — sighed and went 
down limply. 



228 TOWARDS MORNING 

Some one shouted. 

"They've murdered me — it's a trap— a trap—" 

The room seemed suddenly to fill with men. The 
pitchy darkness writhed with them. They could not 
escape from each other. They fought one another, 
gasping and groaning in an anguish of terror. 

"Treachery — ^treachery " 

Helmut had made a rush for the door. But he 
could not find it. His frantic hands slid over an in- 
terminable surface. 

"They've shut us in — ^they'll murder us like rats." 

Another shot fell. Suddenly they found the door. 
It was wide open. They burst out into the passage — 
banging against the walls — falling over each other — 
shouting insanely. 

"Treachery — ^treachery " 

The light had been set to the powder cask. The 
whole night was lit by the explosion. In answer men 
came pouring out of the houses — out of the side 
streets. They seemed to spring out of the very earth 
— rushing hither and thither like a swarm of ants 
whose hill has been suddenly crushed in. In the mar- 
ket-place two streams coming from different direc- 
tions collided and fell upon one another with a howl 
of panic. 

The first few isolated shots had become a steady 
fusillade. 

How long the pandemonium lasted no one knew. 
But suddenly a new power — a deliberate purpose — 
took control. There was order then — order of a kind. 

Helmut did not know whom he followed, whom he 
obeyed. But there was no choice. He ran in and 
out of the houses. He had a blurred vision of himself 
chasing flying shadows along corridors, up steep nar- 



TOWARDS MORNING 229 

row stairs into black garrets— of stabbing — stabbing 
sometimes into air, sometimes into soft, spongy things 
that squealed and whimpered. 

Like a terrier hunting rats in a big bam. 

His arms ached. He laughed and shouted in an 
hysterical lust of slaughter. 

There was light enough now. One could see what 
one was doing. The town blazed from encj to end. 
The red flames leapt up into the night sky with the 
joy of spirits released from hell. The streets were 
a flood of fire on which floated little black specks of 
men. 

And still Helmut ran on and on, staggering, reel- 
ing, his foam-flecked mouth open in a shout that was 
nothing but a strangled grunting. 



IV 

The fire had almost burnt itself out Mournful 
and grey and still the morning broke over the smoul- 
dering ruins. The gay lilt of a bugle sounded 
strangely — ^like a bird's song in some age-old place 
of death. 

A squadron of dragoons rode first. They clattered 
and jingled down the cobbled street. The men glanced 
at the broken walls and gaping doors, curious but 
unmoved. A child's body tossed out into the middle 
of the road troubled the horses, and one of the men 
dismounted and carried it not untenderly back into 
its home. 

Then they rode on. 

A company of infantry followed. Hauptmann von 
Priitwitz marched at their head. He carried himself 



2SO TOWARDS MORNING 

well and on his face there was a happy serenity — ihe 
look of a man who is set out on a high purpose. 

He did not see the child huddled in the doorway. 
He did not see, nor in any case would he have recog- 
nised the soldier l)nng not far off. His eyes were 
fixed straight ahead on his own vision. 

The soldier did not hear them pass. He slept the 
deep, sweet sleep of exhaustion in a little niche amidst 
the ruins of a fallen house. His body was curled up 
easily and naturally. The rifle had slipped from his 
hand. 

But there were stains on the field-grey uniform — 
grotesque stains on the peaceful face half-hidden in 
the curve of his arm. 

It was as though whilst he slept an enemy had wil- 
fully besmeared him. 



CHAPTER y 



In ten hours order and even a semblance of pros- 
perity and gaiety had been conjured up. Beer shops 
and canteens were established with amaidng prompti- 
tude in any ruin that offered the smallest protection 
from the threatening storm that already moaned and 
muttered overhead. Gay-coloured lanterns illumi- 
nated their inviting signs. On one of them a face- 
tious host informed his guests that he intended to 
open shortly on the Rue de Rivoli in more commodi- 
ous and less draughty quarters. The officers of such 
regiments as were resting before a further advance 
had billeted themselves in the few intact buildings to 
the west of the town and messed luxuriously in the 
chief hotel which miraculously had escaped destruc- 
tion. 

In the streets, even after nightfall, there was a 
constant movement. Troops poured through on their 
way eastwards. The sound of their passing varied but 
never wholly ceased. The clatter of horses, the crash 
and rumble of guns, the rhythmic beat of infantry 
were three phrases in a m(Hiotonous tune to which the 
ear became accustomed and finally indifferent. 

The pavement swarmed with activity. Officers of 
all ranks hurried backwards and forwards between 
their Casino and the commanding general's head- 
quarters. The common soldiers who were off duty 

331 



232 TOWARDS MORNING 

avoided that particular route where their contented 
loitering was incessantly broken. They came to- 
gether in the dim hovels where the acrid smell of 
destruction still lingered. Their sober, hearty sing- 
ing lent a warm sonority to the shallow bustle and 
clatter of the street. 

They sang of their homes, of the women they had 
left behind — of the day when they should come back 
to them. 

The rare street lamps and red-eyed lanterns blinked 
in the gusts of angry wind. An endless procession of 
fantastic shadows fled light-footed along the walls. 
It was as though Carnival were being held amidst the 
ruins of a lost civilisation. 

An undercurrent of life there was that had no part 
in the feast. They were the bats and mice and scur- 
rying things that had had their homes here genera- 
tion after generation and had believed the firm brick 
and mortar to be their very own. Now they skulked 
tremblingly in their dark holes and burrows, peering 
out with tragic resignation at the tinknown Power 
which had ordained their end. 



n 

Leutnant Kohler came out of the Casino and 
down the stone steps clattering his sword noisily after 
him. In the street he lingered a minute or two, scowl- 
ing and fingering his reddish little moustache with an 
impatient tenderness. He was bored and out of tem- 
per. For erne thing he considered he had been un- 
fairly treated in the matter of quarters; for another 
there was a rumour that the Yellow Dragoons were 



TOWARDS MORNING 233 

to be dismounted and sent into the front trenches. 
On hearing which he had started up in fury, banging 
the table. 

''What the devil are they up to? Do they think 
they can mix us cavalry with a lot of line rag and 
bob-tail r' 

An infantry officer who had been present had taken 
umbrage and there had very nearly been a nasty scene 
—even now in spite of his suave and tactful with- 
drawal Leutnant Kohler could not be sure that there 
would not be consequences and the possibility added 
to the intensifying vibration of gun-fire filled his cup 
of discontent to the brim. 

He proceeded on his way slowly keeping to the 
middle of the pavement returning salutes with that 
air of combined accuracy and insolence which he had 
made his own, ignoring such soldiery as sprang stiffly 
out of his path, bowing deferentially to his superiors. 
His small alert eyes shot penetrating glances into the 
darkness. Though he had no clear idea as yet what 
he was looking for nothing escaped him. 

A soldier lurched out of a doorway. Leutnant 
Kohler had almost passed but not quite enough either 
for the regulations or his own exasperated temper. 
He swung round, overtook the man at a stride and 
struck him across the legs with his scabbard. 

"What the hell do you mean by not saluting? Don't 
you sec who I am, you drunken hog?" 

The soldier had jerked up rigidly. 

^*Verzeihung Herr Leutnant — I didn't see " 

"Ah, you didn't see — ^you didn't see " He 

stopped, overtaken by a sudden thought. "Here — ^un- 
der the lamp with you!" 

He was obeyed. They stood close to one another 



234 TOWARDS MORNING 

with the yellow, wavering light on their faces. Though 
they gave no sign, picture after picture flashing up 
out of the past held them silent, staring at each other. 
And each knew what the other remembered. 

Kohler's hand went back to his moustache. He was 
in no hurry now. The joke was too good to be ^)oilt 
by impatience. This was something to write home 
about. He even began a mental description of the 
shambling figure in the ill-fitting uniform — ^and he 
had a vision of himself as he must appear to this de- 
generate clod. Even in these days of field-grey a cav- 
alry officer knew how to make the most of himself. 

A poison that had rankled in his blood for years 
was to be cured by an antidote — 2l very subtle, sweet- 
tasting antidote. 

He let the soldier stand there in front of him still 
rigidly at attention whilst he examined him leisurely 
from head to foot. Then his eyes passed on, till com- 
ing to rest on the house opposite, they narrowed with 
a new recollection. For a minute he genuinely forgot 
his victim. He smiled to himself — ^a greedy animal 
little smile. There was a pleasant tingling in his 
nerves — ^a rush of hot blood to his face. 

He knew now what he had been looking for. 

The house had been fired but not wholly destroyed. 
An attempt had been made to close and barricade the 
splintered door. The empty windows were dark, and 
yet somehow they suggested life — cowering, watch- 
ing. 

Leutnant Kohler moistened his lips. 

"Your name, number and regiment," he demanded. 

"Helmut Felde, 3078, D Company, Regiment 
Konigin Louise, No. 45." 

"Good. I shall know whom to report. In the 



TOWARDS MORNING 235 

meantime there's a girl living in that house. You will 
go in and fetch her and bring her to my quarters — 
over there— on the third floor. Immediately. Do you 
understand ?" 

It was very subtle. He complimented himself. His 
coarse hearing sharpened to catch the full flavour of 
the answer. It came at last — ^parrot-like, toneless — 

**Jawohl, Herr Leutnant/^ 

"Good. And hurry up." 

He sauntered on, spur-jingling, sword clattering. 
He smiled to himself. The hand that still played me- 
chanically with the reddish moustache had begun to 
tremble. 

in 

He knew his way this time, but now he went slowly, 
with leaden feet. He did not think of the thing he 
had come to do, his brain was empty. But an unut- 
terable misery weighed upon him. He could have 
killed himself. It did not occur to him once to dis- 
obey. 

The lock on the door at the end of the passage had 
been broken the night before. He remembered how 
he had broken it with a kick. The door swung open 
slackly at his touch. 

It was quite dark and in the room itself very still. 
But all around him the house murmured like a thing 
in pain. He could hear the wind sighing through its 
broken walls. And when a gun, nearer than the rest, 
boomed, it shuddered. 

"Who is there?" 

His own voice startled him — ^jericed him to a stand- 
still. It seemed to come from some one else. It 



236 TOWARDS MORNING 

sounded strained and breathless and frightened. He 
stood aghast for a moment. Then he remembered an 
electric torch which he had taken from a dead Bel- 
gian. He sent its white eye peering through the ob- 
scurity. It lit up piece by piece the gashed, disfigured 
room, the little bits of furniture, smashed to match- 
wood, the heap of broken crockery — a, discoloured 
crust — all covered with a thin yellow powder — as 
though everything had happened years ago. 

And it had been last night. 

The light came to rest on the two figures on either 
side of the fireplace. Helmjit felt that they also had 
been there for a long time. They were like figures in 
an old forgotten wax-work show — grey and colourless 
and dusty, living with a strange, sinister life of their 
own. 

The one was indeed almost unrecognisable. It 
might have been a bundle of ragged clothes, heaped up 
into a grotesque resemblance to a human body, and 
to which some one in a freakish mood had attached 
a mask. But the other stood straight and tall, her 
hand on the mantelshelf, her eyes fixed on the black 
and empty grate. 

On the floor by the window was a long, inert 
thing, covered by an old tablecloth, with a cross and 
rosary upon its breast. 

Helmut came further into the room. He tried to 
move quietly, but the boards creaked under his tread. 

''Frdulein — Mademoiselle/' he muttered, *'U faui 
venir avec moi" 

She turned towards him. Even with that full white 
light upon her, her eyes were dead and lustreless. She 
did not answer, and they stood for a long minute 
looking at each other. Last night there had been 



TOWARDS MORNING 237 

hatred and challenge between them. Now there was 
nothing but this bottomless misery. He tried to re- 
peat his little French sentence — ^like a child repeating 
a lesson that it does not understand — but an invisible 

hand was at his throat, choking him. '' faut venir 

— avec " But still she did not answer, and his 

wretchedness was lit by an imperative need — ^to get 
on with this — ^to have done with it — ^at all costs to 
get away from this place of horror. '7/ faut — il 
faut " he repeated desperately. 

That was the keynote of it all — "il faut — il faut/'. 

He blundered towards her. He was almost crying. 
As he caught her by the arm the bundle huddled in 
the chair was galvanised with a sudden horrible life. 
For a second it stood upright, straight as in youth, 
its mask flaming with hate — ^its fleshless arms lifted 
in malediction — then broke, crumbling to nothing. 

The girl shook off his hold. She did it easily, im- 
patiently, as though he had been an importunate child. 
Whatever power he had had was gone. She could 
have escaped him. But instead she stood looking at 
the dead woman and at the thing beneath the window. 
And to Helmut it seemed that she held communion 
with them. 

*'Eh Men, Monsieur, je viens" 

Her voice was calm and natural. She might have 
been consenting to some commonplace request. They 
went out together. On the steps, from force of habit, 
she turned to close the door and then seeing the splin- 
tered panels and hanging lock, sighed under her 
breath. Whilst they crossed the road she kept close 
to him, sheltering from the rain-sodden wind. 

Her warm touch on his arm burnt him. He pushed 
her roughly in front up the narrow stairs. If only 



238 TOWARDS MORNING 

she had struggled — if only she would spit at him so 
that he could hate her! But she was so docile — so 
gentle. On the third floor she stood aside for him to 
pass. 

"Come in!" 

He pushed the door open. He saw Kohler lounge 
ing by the fire-place. The lieutenant had taken oflF 
his military coat and wore a light grey Letewka, care- 
lessly unbuttoned. He turned for an instant to throw 
his cigar into the grate and the fire-light flooded his 
full face with a brutal virility. 

^'Ah, Mademoiselle, comme vous etes aimable" He 
clicked his heels together, his hand upon his heart, his 
little eyes gloating over her. "Et belle/' he addecL 
Then he remembered Helmut and the false good-hu- 
mour died out of his face, leaving a cruel, childish 
triumph. "Get out — ^you!" he snapped. "Get out — 
and thank God on your knees if I don't punish you!" 

An impulse leapt up in Helmut — ^an insane impulse. 
But then Kurt had always been able to do that. There 
was something about him which could unseat the 
reason. 

If only he, Helmut, had passed that exam — if only 
Kurt had not worn that uniform — if only the girl 
protested — ^if Kurt had even touched her at that mo- 
ment 

But she stood there quiet and indifferent, her hand 
holding her shawl crossed upon her bosom. It was 
as though nothing of all this concerned her. And yet 
she must have known of that sudden stir — for she 
looked at Helmut for a moment and her eyes were 
full of an aloof, contemptuous pity. 

And perhaps Kohler knew too. Perhaps he too had 
had a glimpse of what was passing behind that mask 



TOWARDS MORNING 239 

of disciplined stolidity. Perhaps the one fine instinct 
in him of self-preservation warned him. 

He advanced threateningly. But there was fear in 
his face and in his voice. 

"Do you hear — get out !" 

The old law re-asserted itself. The flame flickered 
and went out. 

"Zu Befehl, Herr Leutnant!" 

The door closed. He stood alone on the dark land- 
ing. The howl of the wind, the mysterious murmur 
and rustle of unseen things, the dull persistent boom 
of the guns did not reach his hearing. He only heard 
the silence in that room behind him — ^that obscene, 
hideous silence. 

He could see them standing there, confronting one 
another, the man and the woman, and the man's face. 

Like a tiger crouching. 

And then panic overwhelmed him. He rushed reck- 
lessly, blindly down the stairs — out into the storm — 
on and on — the Horror hot at his heels. 



IV 

An hour later, Heilig met him zig-zagging through 
the torrential darkness and drunk beyond reasoning. 

Fortunately it was already late and the tempest 
had swept the streets clear so that he had encountered 
no one of any dignity on his progress. The wind and 
the swirl of rain muffled his shouts to an unintelligible 
murmur. He seemed to have forgotten his distrust of 
the older man. He clung to Heilig desperately though 
he persisted on his own course. 

"Must find it," he explained earnestly. "Must — ? 



240 TOWARDS MORNING 

that's German for 'il fauf — looked it up in a dic- 
tionary — fine word — ^very useful — ^must find it — my 
bayonet — ^lost my bayonet — old man — what do they 
do to you for that, eh ? Shoot you — ^penal servitude. 
Besides, I want it — want to take it home. I've killed 
a deuced few with it — dozens — ^lost count after twenty 
— ^all sorts, my dear boy — ^men, women and kids — 
when I woke up in the morning I was up to my eyes 
in it — swimming in it" — ^he lurched and hiccoughed 
helplessly — "and now I've lost the damned thing — 
and I tell you I want to take it home. I want to 
show it to my mother. She'll be so proud. She'll 
hang it on the wall. I promised I'd do something big 
for the Fatherland — ^and I have — ^haven't I? She'll 
tie a ticket to it — 'With this bayonet my son Helmut 
killed dozens of his country's enemies.' What a 
damned nuisance losing count like that." 

Heilig held him upright with difficulty. 

"Well, never mind about your bayonet anyhow — 
you'll not find it again on a night like this. Better 
let me get you back to your quarters before there's 
a row." 

"I tell you — I know where I lost it," Helmut per- 
sisted. "I had it when I was crossing the road with 
that pretty vixen — Kurt sent me for her, you know — 
always did get everything he wanted, my dear cousin 
— ^and I nearly made a fool of myself — ^think of that 
— ^making a fool of yourself over a bitch that doesn't 
care a damn — ^these Belgians — dirty dogs — all of 
them." 

Heilig struggled with him in vain. It was evident 
that dnmk as he was, he had a perfectly clear pur- 
pose and Heilig had either to go with him or leave 
him to his fate. He chose the former course. 



TOWARDS MORNING 241 

^'Very well, if you know where you lost it, then for 
Heaven's sake let's get there as soon as possible,'* he 
agreed ruefully. "I have no doubt you will get us 
into quod anyhow/' 

But Helmut was not to be hurried. He had his 
tale to tell, and he shouted it to the night, over and 
over again, alternating between a Sadistic gloating, a 
pure patriotism, and an appalled despair. Half an 
hour more had elapsed before they found themselves 
at the bottom of Kohler's staircase. 

"It was up here," Helmut declared, "somewhere up 
here." 

He had lowered his voice. For a moment he 
seemed almost sober, as though after the hurricane 
outside the quiet and darkness frightened him. He 
produced his torch and they began a stumbling, noisy 
ascent. 

To Heilig the house appeared to be only another 
deserted ruin. Nothing suggested to him that there 
was any living thing near them. He had on the con- 
trary an extraordinary consciousness of death. The 
closed doors which they passed on their way up hid 
some terrible secret. 

Then at a turn of the staircase they saw a light 
pouring out overhead. 

It stopped them — it held them for a moment silent 
and motionless. It was more than its brutal unex- 
pectedness — ^there was something strange and signifi- 
cant about it Amidst all the noise and bluster of the 
storm it was so quiet. 

Then suddenly Helmut began to go on again slowly 
and deliberately as though drawn by an irresistible 
fascination. 

The room was almost as he had last seen it. Only 



242 TOWARDS MORNING 

the fire had burnt very low and the man and the wo- 
man no longer faced each other. The man lay full 
length in the middle of the floor — ^his arms out- 
stretched in the attitude of crucifixion — ^and the woman 
stood well away from him — ^looking at him. 

It was Helmut who moved first. He lurched across 
the room. He paid no attention to Leutnant Kohler 
now. His whole mind seemed concentrated on the one 
thing. He picked it up— gaping — stupefied 

"My bayonet '* he babbled — "My bayonet " 

Heilig touched the body with an experienced hand 

"Dead," he said in French. He looked up at the 
woman and she nodded a grave assent. 

"Yes, I killed him." 

"Why?" 

"You know." 

''When was this ?" 

"Two hours ago— when that unhappy boy brought 
me here. I killed him at once — ^I have been waiting 
ever since " 

"For whom ?" 

"For some one to come and take me. You will have 

to kill me now. I meant to kill myself " For 

the first time a touch of emotion coloured her voice. 
"I was not brave enough." 

"Who knows that you have been here?" 

"No one but you two." 

Heilig glanced at Helmut. He had dropped down 
on a chair, his rusty bayonet across his knees, his 
face hidden in his shaking hands. They could hear 
him crying. "He is so young," the girl said sud- 
denly — ^"so young ^" 

Heilig did not answer her. He crossed the room 
and turned down the lamp till it sputtered and went 



TOWARDS MORNING 243 

out. There was now no light but the faint glow that 
came from the dying fire. They saw each other as 
shadows. 

"Go 1" he said gently. "Go quickly, Made- 
moiselle " 

And now there was sheer terror in her voice. 

"What do you mean ? What are you going to do to 
me ? You have killed every one— every one — ^you can 
kill me — ^isn't that enough ?" 

"We are going to do nothing to you, Mademoiselle. 
We two are the only people who could speak — ^and we 
shall say nothing. Justice has been done for once. 
Go quickly — ^whilst we can save you " 

"I do not wish to be sared. I have nothing left to 
live for " 

"You are young. There*s always hope — spare us 

another crime " He took her by the arm and led 

her to the door "Go down by yourself. At the bot- 
tom wait and listen. If you hear no one passing — slip 
out. Here is money — ^I can do no more for you " 

"No '' she said. "Not thit.'* 

He sighed. 

"Very well. God be with you." 

He stood at the head of the stairs listening till her 
footsteps had died amidst the mutter of the wind. 
Then he went back. 

"Come, Helmut — ^we've got to get out of this!" 
He half -led, half -carried him. Helmut was almost 
sober now but dazed and broken with the misery of 
returning consciousness. Heilig closed the door softly 
behind them. He gave a mirthless little chuckle. 
"And by God, Helmutchen, if you had tried to stop 
her rd have killed you with your precious bay- 
onet," he said. 



244 TOWARDS MORNING 



The next morning a prodamaticxi, signed by the 
Stadt G>mmandant, was posted upon the walls of the 
Town Hall. 

A German officer had been found murdered. 

The fifteen persons held by the military authorities 
as hostages for the good behaviour of their fellow 
citizens would accordingly be shot at day-break. 

Appended were the names and descriptions of the 
condemned. 



CHAPTER VI 



"In cold blood 1" he repeated " — ^in cold 

blood " 

He shook his head with a movement of distress 
and incredulity as though he could hardly believe his 
own words. He was a plump, un-soldierly little 
man — ^an incurable civilian masquerading in a uni- 
form — ^and his small soft hands which he held out to 
the fire shook pitifully. "Yes, I have killed people," 
he went on in a high-pitched voice — ^"and God knows 
I was not brought up to kill people. In real life I am 
Kaufmann Bielefelde. I have a little haberdashery 
shop. In all my life I have never done an3rthing more 
violent than sell gloves and stockings and buttons to 
ladies. Yet now I kill people. It is my duty appar- 
ently. God and our Kaiser wish it and so I obey. And 
it is not difficult. Either one doesn't know what one 
is doing or — or one gets angry. A comrade falls and 
one sees red and one hits out. That's easy — ^that's all 
right. But in cold blood ** 

He stopped with a choking sound like a sob and 
there was a long silence. The five men huddled closer 
to the wretched fire. Three nights before the place 
had been a home. And even now it seemed to be 
clinging to its old state, denying with middle-class 
stolidity and heroism, the possibility that these things 
could be. The elderly kind-faced woman whose en- 
larged photograph still hung in the place of honour 

245 



246 TOWARDS MORNING 

over the mantelpiece denied it smilingly. She had 
an air of friendly tolerance and self-assurance as 
though she were saying : "It's all right. It's all your 
excited imagination. Things like this can't happen 
to usr 

And there was a table by the window with a work- 
box and a child's sock peering out from under the 

lid Somehow the sock made the shattered gaping 

window and the rain which came trickling through the 
ceiling where the charred plaster had fallen seem ab- 
surd and unreal. Every moment a child's laughter 
must ring out — Madame, with her market-basket on 
her arm, would appear, smiling and steadfast, and the 
whole nightmare vanish before her. 

The Kaufmann Bielefelde's companions did not 
answer him. They remained dull and apathetic as 
though their struggle against the dank invading mis- 
ery had broken them. They had not even troubled to 
remove their overcoats and the room was full of steam 
and the sickly odour of drying clothes. The afore- 
time haberdasher did not seem to notice their indiffer- 
ence. He went on talking — in spite of himself, wres- 
tling with some horror in his own brain. 

"At first, you understand, I didn't think an3rthing 
about it. After all one doesn't think about orders. 
One just does as one's told and so there's an end of 
it. It wasn't till I saw them — standing there — ^the fif- 
teen of them — ^against the wall — facing the sunlight — 
for the last time — you understand — and then know- 
ing I had to shoot one of them — ^like that — in cold 
blood — just as though they had been one of those dum- 
mies we used to pot at the range — why then — I just 
felt my heart turn to water — I felt I couldn't — that it 
couldn't be done. There was an old man just opposite — 



TOWARDS MORNING 247 

he was so like my grandad — ^there are grey beards like 
that all over the world, aren't there? — we aren't the 
only people who have got nice old fellows like that, eh ? 
And he looked at me — and I could see just how puz- 
zled he was — as though he couldn't understand what 
it was all about — and I didn't know either — ^but I had 
that damned rifle in my hands — ^and then the lieutenant 
gave an order — and I took aim — ^yes — I took aim 
cool as you please — I couldn't believe it — I, Gottfried 
Bielefelde taking aim at that nice old fellow — ^but I 
did — I couldn't help myself — if it had been my old 

grandad I couldn't have helped myself And 

then it happened " He stopped again and the four 

men stirred uneasily and looked up at him as though 
something in his voice had at last broken through their 
insensibility. He was staring straight ahead with 
round, incredulous eyes 

'Well— what happened ?" 

"I'm telling you — ^there was a soldier next me — the 
last man in the line — a queer harum-scarum sort of 
fellow — ^not very respectable, I would say — and when 
the order was given he didn't move— I could see him 
out of the comer of my eyes — he just stood there — 
and the lieutenaQt roared and came at him like a bull. 
But he didn't stir an eyelid. He looked the lieutenant 
right in the face. 'I'll have no hand in this mur- 
der ' he shouted so that we could all hear. 'These 

people are innocent. In any case Leutnant Kohler 

was killed justly. I'll have no hand in this ' And 

then he took his rifle — ^he must have been mad with 
rage for he's a bit of a weakling ordinarily — ^and 
snapped it as though it had been a match and threw it 
at the lieutenant's feet — 'Now you put me up with 
them/ he said, 'and I'll die in good company * 



248 TOWARDS MORNING 

"Think of that ! To an officer I The lieutenant han- 
self hardly believed his ears. He was like a pricked 
balloon. I expected him to knock the fellow down — or 
run him through — ^but he didn't — he didn't seem to 
know what to do— and at last he just put him under 

arrest and sent him off And all the time, you 

understand, that poor old gentleman had been watch- 
ing — ^not knowing a bit what it all meant — ^not even 
that one of us had stuck up for him — and — ^and I had 
stood there — ^with my finger on the trigger — aiming 
at him " 

Suddenly the little haberdasher put his hands to his 
face as though he could not bear their eyes — ^as though 
he were trying to hide from himself. And then they 
saw a big tear creep out from between his fingers. 

Veit Thomas laughed contemptuously. 

''Ach was I Call yourself a soldier, do you?'* 

He shot up as though he had been struck. He shook 
his fists. His round red face was all twisted with 
grief. It was almost comical. But the laughter died 
suddenly in Veit Thomas' throat 

"No— I don't — I'm not a soldier — ^that's just it 
I'm a shopkeeper. I wasn't meant for this. And don't 
you jeer any of you. If you jeer I'll kill you — you've 
got no right — ^you haven't seen what I've seen-^you 
haven't got what I've got on the soul. Look here — 
when the lieutenant gave the order again — we were all 
to bits — all of us — I didn't know what I was doing — I 
was all dazed — stupid — shaking at the knees. Half of 
me wouldn't fire — and half of me had to— and that 
half of me pulled the trigger — ^and — ^and made a mess 
of it — ^made a mess of it, you understand. I can see 
him standing there now — ^the old man — ^wiping the 
blood off his cheek — looking at me — ^and there were 



TOWARDS MORNING 249 

others like that — ^it was like a shambles — ^and the lieu- 
tenant lost his head and screamed — ^it would have gone 
on for ever— only the Feldwebel went round with his 
revolver and made an end — ^an end— oh, my God, an 
end " 

They looked away from him. The fire had almost 
given up its feeble struggle but they still held their 
stiff blue hands out to it for warmth. Their eyes were 
focussed beyond the grey wraith of smoke. And each 
man pretended to himself that he did not hear Gott- 
fried Bielefelde crying. 

At last one of them sat up beating his knees with 
his fists. 

"It's no use,*' he said. "It's no use making a fuss. 
Of course it's horrible. But that's war — war means 
killing people. We shall be killed sooner or later. 
Meantime it's our business to kill them — ^as many as 
we can. The next time we come to a town they'll be 
more careful. Better fifteen of them than one of us, 
eh?" 

Veit Thomas blinked his hard little eyes. 

"Any one who pities an enemy of the Fatherland is 
a traitor," he said dogmatically. 

Helmut got up roughly, overturning his stool. Sud- 
denly he realised how cold he was. The sound of that 
dull terrible sobbing exasperated him. He began to 
tramp up and down the room, stamping his feet and 
beating himself with his arms. He shouted at Biele- 
felde. 

"Shut up— shut up — can't you ?" 

It was growing dusk. With every minute the cold 
and misery deepened about them. Helmut lifted the 
comer of the waterproof sheet which flapped across 
the window. Through the rushing veil of wind and 



2SO TOWARDS MORNING 

rain he could just see the ghostly outlines of the ruins 
across the street. The street itself was washed empty. 

"Who was this man — ^this soldier?" he burst out 
harshly. 

And wondered why he had asked. 

Bielefelde lifted his poor wet face. 

"I don't know — ^he was new — one of the last draft — 
Heilig I think he called himself " 

"What's going to happen ?" 

Bielefelde laughed shrilly. 

"What do you suppose ? Do you think they'll gfivc 
him an Iron Cross? He'll not see another sunset, poor 
devil '' 

"Well, it wouldn't upset me to have a pot at him, the 
traitor!'* Veit Thomas declared. 

''Ach, stop that " 

'Why should I? What's the matter with you, 
Felde? Gone mad or what? Friend of yours, 
p'raps?" 

"Stop it, I say." 

"Oh, well — I don't want to quarrel." 

Helmut continued to pace up and down. He had 
hoped Veit Thomas would take up the challenge. He 
wanted to irritate these four motionless figures hud- 
dled over the dead fire — he wanted to quarrel with 
them. If only a row would start — ^with them — ^with 
anybody. When one was killing and fighting one was 
warm — ^almost happy. 

It was this dank hopeless wretchedness — ^this cold 
blood 

And suddenly, with an oath, he tore open the door 
and ran out headlong. 






TOWARDS MORNING 251 



n 



The man sighed and stretched himseU contentedly. 
From where he lay on the straw bed in the comer of 
the cell he could see the door and the little bit of a 
window whose cross bars traced a faint crucifix against 
the twilight. 

With the minutes the crucifix grew blacker — ^more 
real. 

He sighed again — this time with a whimsical re- 
gret — and sat up, looking about him intently as though 
he were trying not to let a single shadow escape un- 
noticed. Then, seeing that he was not alone, he ex- 
claimed irately under his breath and finally laughed. 

There was a soldier seated on the bench by the door. 
He held a rifle between his knees. His head was 
thrown back against the wall, his face turned towards 
the gathering light in a pale immobility. 

The condemned man threw a crust of bread at him. 

"Helmut Felde, I've been dreaming about you. Am 
I still dreaming or are you an obstinate fancy or are 
you real?" 

Helmut moved but did not look at him. 

"I'm real enough." 

"Good. But you weren't here last night- 



"Your guard has been changed. It's quite simple." 
"Oh — quite. A wonderful coincidence. But why 
didn't you wake me up ?" 

"You — ^you seemed to be so— so fast asleep." 

"Why, so I was. What did you expect me to be? 

Writhing with remorse and terror? My dear boy, if 

you knew anything about criminals you would know 

that remorse is the one ailment we don't suffer from. 



252 TOWARDS MORNING 

And as to terror — why should one spoil one's last hours 
for something so commonplace as death? Not that 
I really want to die. Just now I felt a positive regret 
to think that I shouldn't see the sun again. The sun 
and I were great friends. Still — I wish you had woken 
me up. We could have had a chat — that chat I had 
always promised myself." 

"I didn't come here for that." 

Heilig chuckled. He stretched himself out on the 
straw with his hands beneath his head in a pose of lazy 
content. 

"I bet you didn't. Duty, eh?" 

A spark of anger— of sharp resentment flashed up 
in the sullen voice. 

"No — it wasn't. I came — ^because I wanted to— I 
bribed your guard to let me take his turn." 

"You— what ?" 

"Hush, for God's sake — do you want the lot of them 
on top of us ?" 

Heilig made a gesture of apology. 

"Of course I don't. It was idiotic of me to bellow 
like that. But you shouldn't spring amazing things on 
me. You came because you wanted to! Why did 
you want to? You weren't a bit pleased with me the 
last time we met You don't want to talk to me — ^you 
don't like the look of me apparently. Why did you 
come ?" 

"I don't know— I had to " 

"That's interesting. I wonder " He smiled, his 

head a little on one side "I wonder if it was be- 
cause I'm a sort of souvenir — a, dead and withered 
posy from other days — ^before you were a fine soldier 
and had done mighty and glorious deeds — ^when you 
were a little boy — ^an absurd little boy — ^who butted in- 



TOWARDS MORNING 253 

to the tummies of notorious tyrants and loved a mon- 
grel dog and a rag doll." 

"Oh, be quiet, can't you? Don't laugh. You're 
always laughing — ^making fun of things." He 
turned his gaunt white face for the first time towards 
the man curled up negligently in the straw. "It will 
be day-break in a few minutes," he stammered — "and 
they're coming to shoot you — ^because you are a bad 
German — a disloyal soldier — ^and you laugh." 

His voice broke. 

Heilig did not answer immediately. He sat up 
again, with his arms clasped about his knees, and 
through the silver dusk their eyes met and held. When 
he spoke at last his voice had changed. Its whimsical 
gaiety had become a profound sadness. 

"I wasn't laughing, Helmut. Though, for myself, 
I could laugh easily enough. I am a sick man and my 
spirit cannot bear the burden of these days. So at the 
bottom I am glad to go — ^to be out of it — to rest. All 
the same, I wouldn't have laughed — I couldn't laugh — 
because you are unhappy." 

Helmut made a harsh movement of surprise and 
denial. 

"Unhappy !" 

"Yes, even although you are a good German and 
a loyal soldier and are not going to die in a few min- 
utes — ^unhappy. After all, what else but unhappiness 
brought you here? Why did you risk pimishment to 
come ? You don't approve of me, Helmut You look 
almost as though you hated me " 

"You disobeyed orders," was the bitter interrup- 
tion. "And you didn't even save those people. You 
made it worse for them, a hundred times. If you knew 
what happened " 



2S4 TOWARDS MORNING 

"I can guess. I didn't mean to save them. I knew 
I couldn't. In reality there was no need. It wasn't 
for them I did it '* 

"For whom then !" 

Heilig shook his head. 

"That's what I want to tell you; it's not easy, and 
I have so little time." He was abruptly silent 
The distance had stirred like the leaves of a tree in a 
soft breeze. The sound of men's voices, the thud of 
marching feet wove themselves together into a faint 
thrilling music. Heilig leant forward a little, his e3res 
narrowed as though they were fixed on something far 

off. "Germany — Germany " He whispered. 

"Oh, God — ^they say dying men have visions — and 
there's the Neckar wandering in and out among the 
hills, and there are the little villages on the river 
banks, and the tall, grave fir-trees, the smell of the 
warm summer night, and the sweet wine, and a wo- 
man by my side — ^and the singing : 

^^Alt Heidelberg du feine, 
Du stadt am Neckar reich — 

Oh, the dear, dear earth!" 

His head dropped suddenly between his hands. 

Helmut got up. He lurched heavily, clumsily to 
the window and listened 

"It's the 105th," he muttered. "We go forward to- 
morrow " 

His face, lifted to the light, had the still, wrapt look 
of a somnambulist. 

The voices grew louder — faded again. It was so 
quiet they could hear the soft drip of the rain upon the 
window-sill. 



TOWARDS MORNING 255 

Heilig shook himself. He passed his hands over his 
eyes like a man brushing away the lingering colours of 
a dream. 

"Well, others will come after us," he said gently. 
"Others will slip down stream at midnight — others will 
hold hands tmder the stars— others will watch the 
moon rise over the castle. They will pick up happiness 
where mine has broken off. We must be glad of that 
much immortality. Helmut " 

"What is it?" 

"I want you to listen a minute. It won't be easy. 
WUlyou?" 

Helmut laughed roughly. 

"I can't very well help myself, can I ?' 

"Oh, yes— you could. You could hit me over the 
mouth. You would even gain favour with the gods 
for doing so——" 

•Well— I shan't!" 

"I want you to remember what I am going to say. 
You see, I have always had a soft place in my heart, 
for you, Helmutchen— ever since you thrashed Koh- 
ler, though he was twice as strong. You filled me with 
admiration, you fair-haired, bullet-headed, round-eyed 
baby, because you'd done something that I, poor devil 
of a big strong man, had never dared to do. I loved 
you — ^positively I used to have a sneaking, shameful 
longing to pick you up in my arms and hug you. And 
because I had not loved many human beings in my life 
it broke my heart to see how they were maiming you, 
twisting you out of shape, defacing your miraculous 
little soul. I never forgot you. You were a part of 
my life. And when I saw you lying there by the road- 
side, asleep, I felt that a crime had been done — that 
someone dear to me had been mturdered. And I knew 



288 TOWARDS MORNING 

that through his under-estimation of her he had pat 
himself at her mercy. 

"Come," he said good-humouredly. ''You aren*: 
much of a patriot, are you? After all — ^I'm not an 
enemy. Fm open to reason. Only you've got to trust 
me — ^and prove that you trust me. If I swear to yoc 
on my word of honour as a German soldier that I 
will return it to you at once — ^without touching you— 
will you give me that revolver?" 

His voice was quiet and reasonable. Yet again be 
did not expect her to obey. It had been a mere ruse 
to gain time. She looked at him for a moment, her 
eyes veiled and inscrutable, and then laid the mreapon 
quietly on the table between them. 

And now there was contempt in his laughter. 

He took the old-fashioned fire-arm and emptied oat 
the cartridge into his hand. He made her a deep, 
satirical bow. 

"I keep my word, Mademoiselle." 

Her face betrayed neither fear nor surprise nor re- 
sentment. But there was something sorrowful in the 
gesture with which she took the revolver back from 
him. 

"They taught you that," she said, almost to herself. 

He ignored her. There was nothing more to fear 
now. He could bide his time. He sat down at the 
table and motioned her curtly to take the place oppo- 
site him. She obeyed, and yet there was an unbroken 
strength in her docility as though behind it she held 
a weapon. She motioned aside the share of food 
which he pushed towards hen 

"I have already breakfasted." 

He did not believe her, but he was past caring. 
He ate wolfishly, not speaking, hardly aware of her 



TOWARDS MORNING 289 

until the last crumb had vanished. There was no hur- 
ry. In this narrow, lonely world he had become 
master. 

"It's months since I sat at a decent table/' he de- 
clared at last, pushing back his chair with a sigh of 
content. "And I don't know when I last spoke to a 
woman in my own tongue. I've forgotten." 

"Your mother?" she suggested. 

He nodded thoughtfully. 

"Yes — ^perhaps it was my mother. That was on my 
last leave — a year ago. She will be surprised to hear 
how near I've been." 

^Tfou will go and see her?" 

"No. I am not on leave." He waited for her to 
speak — ^to question him. He wanted to throw the 
truth into her quiet face. But she was silent. Her 
eyes were lowered and he felt rather than saw that 
they were distended as though with a secret, painful 
thought. "What are you staring at?" he asked 
abruptly. 

"Your hands." 

He looked down at them. They lay there clenched 
on the table in a gesture of arrogant content — ^strcxig 
and scarred and brutal. He had an odd feeling of 
surprise, as though they did not belong to him — as 
though he saw them for the first time. 

"Well, what's the matter?" 

"I was thinking of what they have done." 

He stared at her, but she seemed sunk in her own 
vision, and suddenly he sprang up, pushing his chair 
back violently. 

"They have done their duty," he muttered. "That's 
all that matters." 

"What was their duty?" she asked. 



290 TOWARDS MORNING 



'To obey." 

"To obey!" Her lip curled in irrepressible scorn. 
"To do everything they are told— even wicked things T 

"A soldier who obeys does nothing wicked." 

She gave a low exclamation. 

"I would never be a soldier." 

"You are a woman. Yet even you have your duty. 
Even you will have to submit" 

He went over to the window and stood looking oat 
sombrely. It had stopped snowing, but the sky hung 
grey and surcharged over the trees. Again he waited 
for her to cry out — to protest — ^to rouse the demon 
that would release him. But she was quite quiet. 

"I'm going out to see if I can find my things," he 
said at last. "You will wait here." 

Then she moved. She stood between him and the 
door. 

"You're coming back?" 

"Yes." 

"Even though I ask you to go away — ^and leave me 
— in peace?" 

He leant forward and caught her by the arm. He 
drew her close to him so that he cotdd feel her breath 
on his cheek. 

"Even if I didn't want to come back, I should have 
to. Do you understand?" 

They remained moticMiless, staring into each other's 
eyes. She did not falter. He had a strange feeling 
that in that duel she was drawing his strength from 
him — ^that the very marrow of his bones was melting 
tmder her touch. 

Violently, almost in terror, he flung her from him 
and went out, crashing the door to behind him. 



CHAPTER III 



It was dusk when he scrambled back up the ice- 
bank, his haversack slung aver his shoulder and a 
dead hare dangling from the muzzle of his rifle. He 
gave an exclamation of relief. He had learnt to fear 
night in the forest, and in the purple vapour which 
drifted over the mountains it would have been easy to 
miss the Althof altogether. The snow lay feet thick 
on the deep thatched roof and reached up to the level 
of the window ledges so that house and forest were 
fused in an unbroken whiteness. 

But the windows were alight. They shone out like 
warm, friendly eyes, and the long, slender icicles that 
hung from the eaves twinkled in their light like 
golden eyelashes. 

He almost believed that the eyes were watching for 
him. 

"A witch's cottage !" he thought grimly. 
To-night the door was not barred against him. He 
entered freely. The old wolf-hound rose and limped 
to meet him, sniffing at his outstretched hand. A 
candle burnt on the table and the stove threw a red 
glow over the room, catching bright glances from the 
polished coppers. It shone into her face as she bent 
over her work. 

He had entered blustering and storming. He had 
expected opposition and hatred — had prepared to meet 

391 



292 TOWARDS MORNING 

them — ^rejoiced in them. But now the quiet and 
warmth laid gentle, restraining hands on him. It was 
as though he had blundered roughly into a room where 
children lay asleep. 

"You — ^you look so peaceful," he muttered. 

She had glanced up quickly, and again there had 
been a look on her face which he could not read. It 
was as though something had leapt up in her — some- 
thing joyful — ^and then, seeing him, had crept back, 
hiding from him. 

"Peace is all that is left now," she said. "You will 
have to share our nothing. I have no food for either 
of us." 

"It doesn't matter." He was still brooding over 
what he had seen. "I've eaten my iron rations. I 
don't want anything." 

"But you said you had had no food for three 
days " 

He shrugged his shoulders. 

"I tell you — I don't want anything. I'm not hun- 
gry." He closed the door against the bitter twilight, 
but he did not come further into the room. "My 
things are all wet and dirty," he said. "I remember — 
women like to keep things clean. " 

"I don't mind. I am accustomed. You see — my 

brother used to come home " She broke off, 

flinching. "Please give me your coat and I will hang 
it up before the fire in your room. It is only wet 
There is no mud up here in the moimtains." 

"In the trenches there is mud, though. We used to 
wallow in it like pigs in a trough." He gave an awk- 
ward laugh. He had a strange desire to bring that 
look back into her face. "You see — I've been think- 
ing of to-morrow's supper. When I found my rifle 



TOWARDS MORNING 293 

safe and sound I went down to the meadows and hid 
myself behind a tree. And sure enough presently this 
fat fellow popped out. He seemed to know that you 
were short of powder, and he didn't think much of me. 
He didn't know I was the crack sniper in the regiment" 
He stopped, conscious of the sudden whiteness of her 
face. "Why do you mind like that?" he burst out 
angrily. 

She took the stiff, furry body from him and passed 
her hand over it with a lingering tenderness. 

"I couldn't help thinking — ^seeing you — waiting for 



some man ^ 



"War is war," he answered largely, "and there are 
things in life bigger than life." 

"Yes— I know." 

"One's Fatherland." 

"And love and pity." 

"One's Fatherland is above everything." 

"It can't be above God." 

He laughed at her. 

"You live in the mountains," he said. "You don't 
understand." 

He put his hands against the stove and watched her 
spread out his great-coat and stack his rifle in the 
comer. All her movements were so quiet — so sure. 
She was part of the peace that was stealing into his 
blood. He fought against it. He tried to think evilly 
of her and of their companionship — to look at her 
with hot eyes. She was beautiful. She was given into 
his hands. The forest walled them off from the 
world. He had only to will — ^to desire. 

But his thoughts slipped from his control. He pic- 
tured some other man — ^a faceless shadow — who would 
come home each night after the day's toil, whom she 



294 TOWARDS MORNING 

would meet, not in fear but in tender welcome, who 
would sit with her by the fire and speak of the day s 
happenings— of the sleeping children — ^who would 
drowse away in the knowledge of other days to come 
as peaceful and untroubled — who would grow old 
with her. 

He flung himself down impatiently on the bench. 

"What are you doing?" he burst out "Why don't 
you speak?" 

"Wait, I am looking for something." She came 
to him, and her fearlessness tore the thought out of 
his mind like an evil weapon. "It is my brother's old 
pipe," she said gently. "He carved it himself and 
was so proud of it. He smoked it the last night. But 
I think he would like you to have it — sl comrade. 
There is a little tobacco left in the jar." 

"Thank you," he mumbled. He took the pipe from 
her, and it was his hand that shook. "What are you 
making there?" he asked. 

For she had gone back to her place by the candle- 
light and had picked up her knitting. 

"I am making warm things for the people in the 
village — for the children. But there are not many 
children left. They are dying of the cold and hun- 
ger." 

"Other children must come," he said significantly. 

"They must be less sorrowful." 

"They will have a great inheritance. Great glory. 
We shall have won it with our blood for them. " 

She looked up. 

"They must be proud of us." 

He did not answer. He stuffed the bowl of his 
pipe and for a while there was no sound but the soft 
clicking of her needles. Her hands came and went 



TOWARDS MORNING 295 

ceaselessly. They were beautiful hands — ^big and ca- 
pable. Her head was bent and the fire glow, bright- 
ening as the night crept up about them, filled her eyes 
with tired shadows. 

"You gave me all the food you had/' he said sud- 
denly. 

She smiled a little. 

"That is nothing. My poor old fowls may lay again 
to-morrow. Now-a-days one must often go without'* 

"But there is always a full basket at the village 
cross. " 

"The little children !" 

He muttered impatiently. 

"Folly! Each man for himself." 

She put her hands down for a minute. She looked 
very young and wise. 

"You say that because you've forgotten." 

"What have I forgotten?" 

"What you knew when you were quite little." 

He laughed. 

"I never knew much that was of any good to me." 
She went on working, and he sat forward, his brows 
knitted, his chin resting in his hand. He wanted to 
shout at her "This has got to end — ^this can't go on." 
He goaded himself. Suspicions like snakes writhed in 
his mind. What was behind her calm? She was 
fighting him — he knew that — but with what weapons? 
Or didn't she care ? Was she merely a loose woman 
whom his imagination transfigured ? Would she laugh 
when he caught her in his arms ? Or was it the recog- 
nition of the high duty in whose name he came to 
her? 

He hated her in that moment — loathed her strangely 
and bitterly. 



296 TOWARDS MORNING 

"It's so quiet here," he muttered. "The quiet makes 
everything unreal— <Mie can't get away from it. It 
seemed to follow me all day in the forest ** 

"Silence is terrible when one is not at peace with 
God,** she answered. 

"How you talk of God! Like a child! Do 3^011 
really believe in heaven and angels singing and saints 
in white robes ?** 

"I believe in God." 

"Well — ^you wouldn't if you were me — if you'd seen 
the things I've seea You might believe in the devil." 

"I do believe in the deviL Only I know God wins 
in the end." 

"Women's talk!" was his repeated sneer. 

"Perhaps women remember things that men for- 
get," she said wistfully. 

Again she silenced hinu She troubled him as 
though she had indeed reached down into the deep 
places of his mind and touched a forgotten memory. 
He got up and moved restlessly about the room. At 
last he came close to her and stood over her. 

"Look at me!" he commanded. She obeyed, lifting 
her eyes straight to his. They were bright with sud- 
den tears and that which he had meant to say died on 
his lips. "Listen," he said. "Last night — ^you told 
me — you tried to make me lose my way — ^you wanted 
me to die out there — ^and then afterwards you took 
me in — you fed me." 

"You were so helpless." 

"Yes — ^but you've been kind to me since then. Even 
now you speak to me as if I were a friend — ^and when 
I came in to-night you looked for a minute — almost 
glad " 

"I had been dreaming," she answered quietly. "7 



it' 



TOWARDS MORNING 297 

heard your step outside on the snow. It seemed to 
me that he was coming back — as he did that last time 
— ^at dusk. And now — in that uniform — when you 
sit there smoking — in his old place — it is so easy to 

imagine " 

His clenched hands relaxed. He turned heavily 
away. 

"It was I who promised to write to you — ^after he 
died," he said. "And I forgot." 

She was not working now. Her hands lay idle in 
her lap. 

"I didn't hear — ^not for weeks and weeks. I used 
to go down into the valley and watch for the postman, 
but he never came. " 

You — you loved your brother so much?" 
We lived together here ever since my grandpeople 
died. The Althof belonged to us. We had always 
been great friends. I had only had one other play- 
fellow in all my life." 

"He told me about you — the last night — before the 
attack. He was one of the new draft — ^and I only 
saw his face the next morning — ^afterwards. He had 
not fired a shot. He looked quite happy. " 
"I knew that he was happy." 
He turned on her with a sudden bitter anger. 
"Why? Because he had killed no one? Oh, yes. 
He told me what you had said. And yet you would 
have killed me." 

"Because I thought you were an enemy — coming to 
take what was mine — I who had never hurt you. And 
if any one came against my home — my country — I 
would defend it — I would fight them — kill them — ^but 
I would not go out against them — I would not take 
what was theirs." 



298 TOWARDS MORNING 

"Wild, ignorant talk! We attack only to defend" 

Her hands were tightly interlocked. 

"Is that true? I know — ^we're very ignoran: up 
here; we don't hear much — only what they tell us 
But Hans said that they were a weak people. They 
knew it meant death. And we had promised to de- 
fend them." 

He made a violent gesture. 

"They stood in our way — they had to go. It was 
for Germany — for our country. It was justified. The 
weak must yield to the strong." 

"That isn't true— that isn't true !" 

Again that distant thrill of memory. 

"Be silent! If you dared say that where I have 
come from you would be shot. You don't love your 
country. " 

"Perhaps I don't — I don't know. I love this house 
— the forests — the dear people — I'd die for them. It 
wouldn't be loving them if I sinned for them. " 

And all the time he had been coming nearer to her. 
He had been lashing his fury against her, conjuring 
up bestial pictures with which to overwhelm the en- 
emy within himself. But she did not falter. There 
was something earnest and childlike in her bearing — 
as though her eyes that met his inflamed scrutiny saw 
nothing but the virtue in him. He hesitated, and in 
that brief pause the silence regsuned its mastery. It 
encompassed him like a sweet drowsy mist It seemed 
to well up out of his own heart. 

He turned away, hiding his face from her. 

"It's getting late," she said, with a tired sigh. 

From the shadow he watched her take the heav\' 
Bible from its niche. She sat facing him, with the 
light between them and turned over the musty leaves 



TOWARDS MORNING 299 

reverently. And he had a vision of generations of her 
people sitting in the same place, reading from the 
same book. He saw them, tiie grim, kindly men and 
women, holding with strong hands to their iron and 
narrow faith. 

Her lips moved as she read. She was spelling out 
the words earnestly and painfully, like a child. The 
light shone in her face and painted a dim gold about 
her head. He thought of a church which he and his 
comrades had once ravaged. From the broken altar 
a grave and beautiful Madonna had looked down upon 
them. 

The old revolver lay unheeded upon the table. He 
re-loaded it and pushed it across to her, his eyes low- 
ered. 

"Take it. I am not afraid." 

"Neither am I afraid,'* she answered. 

She carried the candle over to the window and 
looked out. "The storm is coming up again," she 
said. "One can't see a single star. It would be ter- 
rible if one didn't know that the morning would come 
again. " 

He did not answer. His breath came quick and 
shallow. Bu* he could see no trace of trouble in her. 
Her bosom rose and fell peacefully. He had a feeling 
that he himself was unreal — only a dark, malevolent 
shadow. He followed her to the foot of the stairs. 
He was reeling, his fists clenched, his face flushed 
and distorted — like a drunkard — ^like a man who stag- 
gers under a crushing burden. 

She turned and looked down at him. 

"Good-night!" 

"Good-night!" he muttered. 

He followed her with his eyes till she had van- 



*i 



300 TOWARDS MORNING 

ished overhead into the darkness. There was now do 
light in the room but the bright glow from the sto?e. 
For a moment he stood motionless and irresolute. 
Then, acting on a sudden impulse, he carried the open 
Bible to the firelight and read what she had read. 

"Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mer- 
cy. .. . Blessed are the pure in heart, for they slall 
see God. ..." 

The old wolf-hound limped to the foot of the stain 
and lay there — ^watching him. 



n 

The fire still burned steadily, but it seemed to faiin 
that the room was growing colder and darker. The 
night that had been rising up the mountain sides crept 
under the doors and through the crannies. It ad- 
vanced stealthily, resistlessly. He felt as though he 
stood on a little sandy island in the midst of a great 
sea and that the sand was being washed away from 
under his feet. 

The shadows that lined the walls had blackened — 
sharpened in outline. He watched them distrustfully. 
He knew that they hated him, just as the dog whose 
unblinking eyes followed his every movement hated 
him. Each winter's night for a hundred years they 
had been there. It was their dwelling-place. They 
were the familiar spirits who had waited on birth and 
death — who had known the men and women who had 
once lived among them. 

They had seen the first — they would see the last. 

And he was an interloper, an enemy threj«tening 
that which they guarded. 



TOWARDS MORNING 301 

He perceived these things more clearly as the si- 
lence deepened. It was as though secret faculties had 
been bom in him and now stood shivering on the 
threshold. The dense wrappings of strength and brute 
courage which had shielded him in months of horror 
had been stript from him. 

Here they availed him nothing. 

He listened for some sound overhead. But none 
came. And it was not the silence of sleep. It was 
poised above him — like a wave before it breaks. 

He got up and began to move about. He had need 
to reassure himself of his own reality. His world 
was melting in mist and shadow. Only she remained 
definite — a clear light on the dim flood which was ris- 
ing about him— carrying him further and further 
from the things he knew. 

He went over to the window. He could see the 
snow as it hurried past in silent, countless legions. 
The dull reflection from the fire lit up the stem of a 
gaunt tempest-riven fir-tree. It stood out there in the 
cold and darkness like a forlorn, mis-shapen ghost — 
watching. 

He tried to lay fast hold of his life — ^to re-picture 
his comrades, the daily filth and misery, the desperate 
attacks, the bitter hand-to-hand struggles, the frantic 
stabbing and slashing, man against man — ^the orgies 
which had broken the murderous monotony of their 
lives. 

But it was all unreal. It slipped away from him. 
He had dreamed these things. He was still dream- 
ing. The reality awaited somewhere beyond his sleep 
— ^beyond the night. 

And he could not wake. He tried, and suffered in- 
tolerably. 



302 TOWARDS MORNING 

"It's the cold and hunger," he told himself. 

He began to look for food, knowing that there was 
none. He opened every chest and cupboard, mcmEf 
silently, fearful of his own shadow— of the sound of 
his own breath. And in the store-room behind the 
IVohnstube he stumbled against something round and 
heavy. 

He struck a light. For a moment he was incredo- 
lous. Then he began to tremble like a man who in 
deadly agony has found an opiate to his hand. The 
light flickered and went out But he had no need of 
light. Exerting his whole strength, he carried tbc 
barrel into the sitting-room and set it on the table 
He fetched a bowl from the dresser and filled it. He 
did not even wait to taste, but drank in great thirsty 
gulps. The crude native wine rushed through his 
blood in a flood of fire. 

He left the tap running and the wine spilled over 
the floor. It ran about in and out of the shadows like 
a live thing seeking escape. The wolf-hound sniffed 
at it and drew back, growling. 

At first he drank only in the desperate need to re- 
affirm himself — ^to regain his world. There was tor- 
ture in his thirst. But little by little the things that 
had evaded him crystallised — ^grew real. The earth 
steadied under his feet. He knew what he was and 
whence he came. And he began to drink for the joy 
of drinking. He laughed out louA He lifted his glass 
to the shadows and taunted them. 

Now everything was clear and simple. He was 
alone in this house with this woman. She had been 
given into his hands. The law commanded — justified 
him. 



TOWARDS MORNING 303 

r 

He stretched his arms above his head like a giant 
waking from sleep. 

The old wolf-hound rose up, bristling, showing his 
yellow fangs. They watched each other, knowing that 
it was to the death. 

Then the man feinted cunningly. And the next in- 
stant his great hands met round the dog's throat, the 
thumbs pressed down through the fur to the windpipe, 
stifling that one yelp of agony and warning. 



Ill 

The stairs murmured under his tread. They, too, 
warned her. Underneath and all about him the spir- 
its of the place were alert, rustling and scurrying in 
dread, impotent horror. He lurched, groping blindly, 
his hands sliding over the walls. The darkness was 
suffocating, almost solid. He felt it pressing thickly 
against his face, in black swathes^ holding him back. 
It had chasmsr— death-holes. 

Even now he tried to move quietly, as though he 
were afraid of rousing a power stronger than himself. 
He had learnt to move quietly. At night, out there 
in No Man's Land, life had depended on stealth. 

And up here in this choking obscurity it was more 
than life. 

The thin golden strip at his feet checked him, but 
only for an instant Suddenly he flung himself against 
the door, bursting it open. 

She had waited for him. She had known that he 
would come. She knew his purpose. She stood op- 
posite him with her back to the wall like some noble 
forest thing that has been hunted down and now turns^ 



304 TOWARDS MORNING 

asking no mercy, to meet the last fight. Her hands 
were hidden behind her, her eyes, dark and alert, never 
left his face. 

"It's no good," he warned her; "there's no one to 
help you here. I don't care what weapon you're hid- 
ing — it won't save you. Do you think I've come back 
from that to be frightened by any living thing ?" 

"You will not touch me," she answered, with sub- 
dued tritunph. 

The candle stood on the table between them. It 
had almost burnt itself out. Its tiny golden tongue 
waved in the draught and threw quiet, moving shadows 
on their faces. But to the man the room was full of 
the redness of his brain. He closed the door swiftly 
behind him, shutting out the invisible witnesses that 
had followed at his heels up the dark stairs. 

"You thought you'd beaten me," he stammered 
thickly. "You thought you'd fool me — that I'd be 
helpless because you're good and believe in God. 
Listen to me. Other women have believed in God and 
It hasn't helped them. They've been good, and we 
haven't had any pity. We're masters — and what we 
do is law. No one has a right to call us devils; I 
know what you've been trying to do, but it won't 
serve you. Because I don't believe in God. I believe 
in the good German fist. I'm a soldier, and a sol- 
dier does what he's told. I've had my orders. I've 
never disobeyed yet ; I'm not going to begin now. I'm 
not going to be shot because you're good." He made 
a violent gesture. "You're a traitress. You're try- 
ing to make me a traitor — ^you're trying to make me 
think things I don't want to think — to feel like a devil, 
when I'm in the right — ^when I'm doing my duty. But 
you shouldn't have forgotten that wine. It put me 



TOWARDS MORNING 305 

straight — ^made me see dear — ^to know what I want — 

and by God " He lurched heavily towards her. 

"Give me that knife or whatever you've got there. 
It's no good. You belong to me. It's the law. If 
your own brother were here now he couldn't stand 
between us." 

She was in his arms. His kisses had been rained 
savagely upon her eyes and lips. Now suddenly, as 
though he had been struck by lightning, he let her go. 
She slipped away from him against th^ wall, her head 
thrown back, her eyes blind with tears. 

"Oh, Helmut! Helmut 1" 

He stared about him stupidly. He had been asleep 
and some one had called to him. In a minute he would 
wake up to a warm summer's afternoon in the pine 
forest — and something brown and leaping and laugh- 
ing would come to meet him through the trees. 

"Helmut! Helmut!" 

The cry had been so ringing clear — so joyous. 

"Why — ^why do you call me that?" he muttered. 
"You don't know — I never told you." 

She held out what she had hidden. 

*T kept them all these years." 

He took her pitiful weapons from her — ^the yellow, 
withered posy, the crumpled sheet of paper, torn out 
of a school-book, and covered with a sprawling boy- 
ish hand. 



"My Lenchen is like the running brook- 



ff 



His arms dropped to his side, broken of their 
strength. Suddenly his blood was cold and quiet. 
The fever and fury of desire were gone like a 
quenched fire. 



J I 



306 TOWARDS MORNING 

This was the reality — from a long way off he had 
come to find it — not glory nor power nor duty, but this 
simple white room and Lenchen — ^brown Lenchen, the 
playfellow, the loving comrade who had remembered 
— ^and himself — ^monstrous, unholy. 

He kept on turning the flowers over and over in 
his hand. The gay coloured ribbon of the Quinta had 
faded. He remembered how he had cut it off his cap, 
how he had hidden the posy in his blouse so that his 
mother shouldn't know what he was doing. And 
that long, funny poem ! He had lain awake for hours 
trying to think of a rhyme for "brook." 

That last evening together — ^the heart-break of that 
parting 

He had forgotten. But he had never loved any one 
else. 

It was quite still between them. He laid the posy 
gently on the table. He did not look at her. He 
lumbered blindly to the door and along the dim pas- 
sage to the stairs. They were silent now. He stum- 
bled over the dead body of the old wolf-hound. His 
feet slipped in the spilled wine. 

He did not know that she followed him. He tore 
the bolts back. The snow was already on his face 
when he heard her calling. He looked back and saw 
her standing against the firelight. 

"Hehnut— ccMne back— come back — ^it's death out 
there. ** 

He shook his head. 

"I must go away/' he said. "I must go away." 

He said it over and over again with a dull insist- 
ence. Out there the darkness might hide him— even 
from himself. 



TOWARDS MORNING 307 

But she had dropped down by the table. He heard 
her sob. And suddenly he ran back and knelt down, 
pressing his face against her hands, crying in an awful 
abandonment of drunken grief. 



CHAPTER IV 



The next morning they cleared the snow away from 
the door and dug a hole in the frozen soil. And there 
they buried the old wolf-hound. 

"His spirit will take care of me when you are gone,' 
she said. 

The man turned away so that she should not see bis 
face. 

And all that day it snowed and soon the shaOov 
grave was covered over and a white sea enclosed them. 
They scarcely spoke. They moved softly as though 
some one dearly loved were asleep after much sorrow. 
But it was not a terrible silence any more. It was 
the silence of the woods before the first flowers lift 
their heads above the winter's deajh — before the first 
song of the birds — ^the hush of re-birth. 

And when it was dark they sat by the red glow of 
the fire and listened to the footsteps of that which 
was coming to them through the night. 

n 

And on the third evening she looked up at him ^s 
he stood silently beside her. 

"How big you've grown, Helmut!" 
"How pretty you are, Lenchen!" 
They smiled at each other sadly. 
"So you do remember that?" 

308 



TOWARDS MORNING 309 

"I remember everything. Now it seems to me that 
it is the only real thing that has ever happened to me. 
I can remember every detail — as though it were yes- 
terday — ^that last evening together — and the things 
you said to comfort me — such brave things. You were 
ready to defy all the dragons and ogres in the world — 
and you were so sure that I should be able to defy 
them. But you didn't know what the dragons were 
like.*' 

"Poor Helmut!" 

"But I did put up a fight When they teased and 
bullied me at the crammers I used to say to myself: 
*It doesn't matter. I must be good and kind.' And I 
made a funny calendar of my own — ^nine squares di- 
vided into twelve little squares. And every month I 
scratched off one of the little squares. When the last 
big square had gone it would be time for me to come 
back to you." 

"And then you forgot." 

"Not all at once — never altogether. I cried out at 
night for you — ^months and months. But then other 
things came. They seemed to know that you were 
their enemy, for they crowded you out. And I wasn't 
strong enough to keep you. I had to go their way or 
your way — ^and you weren't there. I couldn't cry any 
more — so I laughed. I thought we had been two chil- 
dren making foolish, impossible plans." 

"It must have seemed like that," she whispered. 
"But it was not real laughter," he said earnestly, 
"and I never really forgot. You see how I've remem- 
bered. And often you've tried to come out of your 
hiding-place in my heart. And sometimes I listened 
— ^less and less, I know, as time went on. But now 
you've come back altogether." 



3IO TOWARDS MORNING 

She leant forward, her chin cupped in her hands, 
gazing into the firelight. 

"I never forgot at all. I don't know why it was— 
but you meant so much to me. You were such 2 
strange, sad little boy. Somehow you changed every- 
thing. You made me think about things. I began to 
understand the wicked people that the Pastor used to 
talk about. I had always thought that they weren't 
real— or had lived a long, long time ago. But after 
you had told me of poor Karl I knew that they were 
still there and that they were very cunning, terrible 
people." 

"Oh, Lenchen, is that aU I did?" 

She shook her head. 

"I never played with any other little boy after you 
left I didn't want to. And I thought it would hurt 
you if you knew. You see, I did know somehow how 
hard it would be for you, and I wanted you to fed 
that I was always there — ready and waiting — I thought 
perhaps it would help." 

"Did you think I would come back?" 

"I knew." 

"And when I came " 

"I recognised you at once— even that first night in 
the storm. I just felt that it was you. When you 
were beating at the door I said to myself: 'That's 
Helmut wanting to come in.' And I couldn't fail you 
— ^whatever it cost." She drew a deep, noiseless breath. 
"Afterwards I was surer still. Everything had 
changed — except your eyes — and they were just the 
same — so blue — and — ^and troubled-looking!" 

"But you sat there — all night — watching me — ^like 
an enemy." 

She shook her head. 



TOWARDS MORNING 311 

"No, not like an enemy — ^you don't know what was 
in my heart — ^you were some one I had to protect — I 
couldn't have let you do anything wrong — ^anything 
that would have made you sorry all your life." 

"You — ^you would have shot me, Lenchen?" he 
whispered. 

"Oh, Helmut, I don't know — ^I don't know. I just 
prayed to God — ^that I might be strong." 

"Why didn't you speak?" 

"I had to wait. The time hadn't come. You were 
too far off. But I felt that you would come nearer 
and nearer — ^and then — ^then I should only have to say 
one word." 

He sat down on the bench beside her, hiding his 
trembling. 

"But, Lenchen, there have been other people in your 
life — some one else. I've been thinking of him all 
these two days. There must be some one whom you 
are waiting for, who will come back, and love you 
and make you happy." 

"There has never been any one but you." 

He took her two hands between his. He bent over 
them and kissed them. 

"I love you, Lenchen." 

She smiled tremulously. 

"I am so glad, Helmut Because I love you, too. 
And we've been engaged people such a long, long 
time." 

They looked at each other, but the tears blinded 
them. 

"My Lenchen — ^my own sweetheart." He had come 
out of the striving and tumult on to a quiet height 
and before him was all his life to come. He could 
trace the peaceful path on which they would go to- 



312 TOWARDS MORNING 

g€ther. The hideous union that was to have becz 
forced upon them would become blessed and boij. 
Almost he could have said to her in that moment of 
thanksgiving: "I believe in God/' 

But he looked down and saw the hands that held 
hers. He spread them out before him in the firelight 
And he saw that they were red and filthy and that the 
filth ^read up — ^up to his breast — to his throat — he 
could taste the loathsomeness of it upon his lips. And 
suddenly with a cry of anguish he stood up. "Ctti. 
Lenchen — Lenchen, what have I done?" 



m 

The night wore on heavily and there was no sound 
in the room but that of the man's voice. He leant 
forward, his chin resting in his hand, and looked into 
the red glow of the fire as though it were there that 
he saw the things that he had done. And she fol- 
lowed his eyes, seeing with him. Her face was pak 
and grave, but she made no sign of hurt. Her hands 
were clasped in her lap in a gesture of unconscious 
innocency. 

And for a while he forgot her. It was to himself 
he spoke. It was to the tribunal of his own soul — 
horror-stricken, quivering and revolting — ^that he told 
the story of his manhood. He picked out each filthy 
blood-stained thing and held it up and saw it for the 
first time for what it was. All tj^at had been splendid 
and heroic — ^all that seemed to become a man — putri- 
fied under that final scrutiny. He tore the gold trap- 
pings of kingship and glory from it and the body crum- 
bled to a heap of dust 



TOWARDS MORNING 313 

"And we believed that it was right — ^as though God 
Himself had told us/' he said. "The kindliest and 
best of us— we did these things — as we gave our lives 
— ^without question. There was only one sin left in 
the world — the sin against Germany." 

"As though our forests would want these things of 
us, *' she said simply. 

At the end he told her of Heilig — of that last watch 
together — ^and of how he had struck the dying man 
across the mouth. 

"That was the saddest thing of all, Helmut'* 
He lifted his eyes to hers. He read in her face the 
tragic knowledge of that which in this hour had be- 
come clear to him. Their love remained. But the 
gulf between them was too wide. Not all the toil and 
passion of their lives could build the bridge across. 

And yet surely there was some way — some other 
way. 

"I have come back, Lenchen, but I have lost you." 
They had taught him to believe only in the hard, 
tangible realities — ^realities that a man's hands could 
make and break. It was strange to sit close at her side 
with the gods whom he had obeyed giving him right 
and power, with his own youth and love beating in 
his blood and to know that in a little while he would 
be gone. 

So that after all there were things in a man's soul 
stronger than armies — stronger even than his own 
desire. 

He looked at her hands, lying there so quietly. He 
had a htunble longing to touch them — to hold them as 
he had done in that brief glimpse of happiness an hour 
ago. But he could not He was like a man in a dark 



314 TOWARDS MORNING 

and filthy cell, gazing between the bars of his prfsos 
at the distant fields. 

"Lenchen — it would have been better to have left 
me out there/* 

She started, and as though she had divined his 
thought she took his hands and gently kissed them 
each in turn. And he could have cried with the pain 
of it. 

"Oh, no, Helmut; it isn't that — ^you mustn't think- 
that. Only it's so sad — they've spoilt all our lives — 
those wicked people." 

"I am one of them, Lenchen." 

She shook her head. 

"I knew that you were not — ^you were such a kind, 
loving little boy." 

"But I am not that little boy any more." 

That was the inexorable truth. He was not the 
same. He could never be the same again. Not all 
his tears and remorse could give him back what they 
had taken from him. They could mend his body — 
they could not give him healing for the deeper sick- 
ness. 

He sat with his face hidden for a while, thinking of 
his crippled, tainted youth. 

But was there no way — ^no way in the world by 
which a man could retrace his steps? 

And strangely, at that moment, he thought of the 
sun that even now was rising splendidly to their 
horizon. 

"Everjnvhere there are people sitting by the fire — 
like we are," she said, under her breath, "breaking 
their hearts." 

"What can we do, Lenchen?" 

"We're so weak." 






TOWARDS MORNING 315 

"It would be so easy just to give way — ^to take what 
happiness we can get. We're just two people among 
millions — ^what can we do?" 

She had grown tense and eager with the thought 
that came to her. 

"It would have been easy just to have shot down 
those poor people — Helmut — he was just one man." 

For an instant his whole being rose up in revolt. 
And it was no good. He didn't save them." 

'He knew that. But he did something — something 
bigger than that I don't know — it's all so dark and 
difficult, but I think — soon — I shall imderstand." 

"He told me," Helmut whispered. "He told me 
just before he died. He seemed to think that all over 
our country there were people like himself, lonely, 
helpless people, who were doing what he did, giving 
their lives, their happiness, to redeem the others — 
the others who would come after, so that they should 
be happy — and all the things that we have done for- 
gotten and f orpven. He told me to remember what 

he said, if ever the time came " He stopped, 

blinded for the moment by the sudden light. "He said 
— 'even as you may give your life, Helmutchen.' " 

For a long time they were quite silent. They sat 
close to one another, their hands tightly interlocked — 
staring ahead like people who are being drawn more 
and more swiftly towards the cataract. But when he 
spoke again it was as though in the last minutes of 
that dread journey they had talked together, exchang- 
ing each thought — ^answering each question. 

"So I shall go back," he said, "and I shall tell them 
that what they bade me do was a foul and evil thing. 
That I have disobeyed them — ^and that I shall never 
obey their law again." 



3i6 TOWARDS MORNING 

"And then— they will kill you, Helmut.'' 

He did not answer — and suddenly they clung to one 
another in despair and revolt — ^that last supreme re- 
volt of their bodies against the inexorable spiriL 

"Oh, Helmut, Helmut — ^and we don't know — we 
don't know — perhaps this is the only life wc have." 

"My Lenchen — my own darling. " 

"Helmut, dcMi't go— don't leave me." 

"Oh, Lenchen, it must be soon— quite soon. We 
couldn't bear it — ^my little love." 

They cried together pitifully. But gradually the 
storm passed. They had gone under in the darkness 
and tumult, but now they were being borne swiftly on 
the deep flood. She crept closer into his arms. 

"Let us be quite happy now — don't let us think of 
anything — ^but just that we are sitting here together 
by the fire — in our own little home. Let's pretend that 
you came back — and that it's been like this for years 
and years, and that now we are old, old people. And 
that even if to-morrow we are parted we shall have 
had our happiness — and that it cannot be for very 
long." 

He kissed her brown hair softly. 

"And we'll talk about the old days — ^up there — on 
the Ludwigshohe. " 

"And the Sandtorte— do you remember ?" 

"And the old witch's cottage." 

"You said it was the Forsthaus.' 

"I was such a silly little boy. 

Their voices dropped to whispers. And sometimes 
there were long silences. 

They did not notice that the firelight had grown 
dim. They did not see the deeper shadows rise up Ukc 
watchers whose task is done and creep away. 



99 

I 

99 



TOWARDS MORNING 317 

IV 

It was not snowing any more. Overhead the grey 
mists were breaking. One could see pale touches of 
blue amidst their floating draperies, and far away on 
the peaks of the distant hills the snow sparkled in the 
first light of morning. 

"The dear, dear earth/' she whispered. 

"That is what Heilig said — 'The dear, dear earth.' " 

He took her in his arms and for the last time they 
kissed each other. For a long minute they remained 
locked together — ^silent and motionless. 

Then he went on, ploughing strongly through the 
deep snow, valleywards. 

♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ 

The old Amtschreiber came out of the quiet room, 
closing the door softly behind him. He saw old Anna 
standing with clasped hands by the window, and he 
blinked his eyes trying to make sure that she was 
really so old — ^that all those years had really passed. 

"You must go home," he said. "You must be very 
tired." 

"It doesn't matter, Herr Amtschreiber. One can 
rest now." 

"Yes — that's true — one can rest now." 

He put his hands against the majolica stove, warm- 
ing them. He felt very cold — ^as though he could 
never be warm again. 

"Good-night, Herr Amtschreiber." 

"Good-night." 

He did not move until he heard her heavy, listless 
footsteps pass down the passage and the subdued click 
of the latch. Then he shambled over to the table, 



3i8 TOWARDS MORNING 

littered with papers and old letters^ and sat down vntb 
his head between his hands. 

For a long time he sat there — so still that he seemed 
to fade into the greyness and shadow of the room. 
Before him, under his eyes, was the open page of that 
day's Tagblatt filled with black-bordered death-notices 
of the fallen. And one among them was larger, 
prouder than the rest : 

"Hauptmann Heinrich von Prutwitz. 

"Knight of the Iron Cross — ^second class, 

"Who died the hero's death for Kaiser and 

Fatherland 
"On the 15th of December, 1916.'* 

And underneath was a long list of his people. 

The Herr Amtschreiber turned over the disordered 
pile of letters with shaking fingers. Some of them 
were yellow edged and covered with a stiff school- 
boy's writing. Others were more recent — bolder and 
briefer. The last was written on a sheet of official 
note-paper by some stranger's hand. 

"Helmut Felde — ^at dawn — for disobedience in the 
face of the enemy." 

Gradually night came into the room, and to the Herr 
Amtschreiber that weariness which muffles even the 
worst sorrows of the very old. 

And so he fell asleep— suddenly and peacefully. 

And in his sleep he dreamed that he heard an infant 
crying. 

THE END 



r.